San Francisco To Wipe Out Cannabis Convictions
California started the year right by being the largest state to approve recreational use of Cannabis. Aside from legalizing marijuana for adult use, the recently implemented California measure, known as Proposition 64, enables those with past convictions to petition a court to recall or dismiss their cases. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, one of the organizations that helped write Proposition 64, only 232 petitions have been filed in San Francisco as of September 2017 and 4,885 petitions in the state of California.
The process requires filing paperwork, paying a fee or even retaining an attorney, which Thomas emphasized can preclude vulnerable populations, like minorities, from participating but many people don't know about the process, which can be difficult. This is why District Attorney George Gascón said that San Francisco will expunge and dismiss thousands of misdemeanor and felony marijuana convictions for those sentenced prior to legalization of marijuana in California — even if those with prior convictions don't file a petition.
The District Attorney's office announced its intent to retroactively apply new, more lenient rules on marijuana possession and legalization to drug cases dating back to 1975.
The move will clear people's records of crimes that can be barriers to employment and housing and it could provide a model for other U.S. city and state governments to follow as the push to legalize marijuana continues to gather steam.
"While drug policy on the federal level is going backwards, San Francisco is once again taking the lead to undo the damage that this country's disastrous, failed drug war has had on our nation and on communities of color in particular," Gascón said in a statement. "Long ago we lost our ability to distinguish the dangerous from the nuisance, and it has broken our pocketbooks, the fabric of our communities, and we are no safer for it."
Drug Policy Alliance interim director for California, Laura Thomas said, "The pathway to expunging records is one of the most important passages of Proposition 64, but there hasn't been as much coverage, so people aren't aware they can benefit from it,"
According to the city's Cannabis Equity Report, marijuana arrests skyrocketed in 2000, the percentage of black people arrested rose from 34 to 41 percent of the total.
"Prop. 64 sets a new benchmark of how to legalize marijuana within a reparative justice frame," Thomas said. "What Gascón did is move that to the next level to ensure everyone can get access to the release Prop. 64 promised."
(Governor Gavin Newsom)
California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom said, "This example, one of many across our state, underscores the true promise of Proposition 64 – providing new hope and opportunities to Californians, primarily people of color, whose lives were long ago derailed by a costly, broken and racially discriminatory system of marijuana criminalization,"
Gascón is just the latest leader from a cannabis-friendly state to come out in defiant opposition to Sessions' move to undermine previous federal guidance for state-by-state marijuana regulation, threatening burgeoning industries in several states.