San Francisco Will Clear Thousands Of Marijuana Convictions Dating Back To 1975
San Francisco will retroactively apply California’s new marijuana legalization laws to prior convictions, expunging or reducing misdemeanors and felonies dating to 1975, the district attorney’s office announced Wednesday. Nearly 5,000 felony marijuana convictions will be reviewed, recalled and resentenced, and more than 3,000 misdemeanors that were sentenced prior to Proposition 64’s passage will be dismissed and sealed, Dist. Atty. George Gascón said. The move will clear people’s records of crimes that can be barriers to employment and housing. San Francisco’s move could be the beginning of a larger movement to address old pot convictions, though it’s still far from clear how many other counties will follow the famously liberal city’s lead.
Proposition 64 legalizes, among other things, the possession and purchase of up to an ounce of marijuana and allows individuals to grow up to six plants for personal use. The measure also allows people convicted of marijuana possession crimes eliminated by Proposition 64 to petition the courts to have those convictions expunged from their records as long as the person does not pose a risk to public safety. They also can petition to have some crimes reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, including possession of more than an ounce of marijuana by a person who is 18 or older. “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.” About 75% of San Franciscans voted to legalize marijuana, the highest margin among all of California’s 58 counties. But only 23 petitions for Proposition 64 reduction, dismissal or expungement have been filed over the last year, the district attorney’s office said, adding that it does not have any active marijuana prosecutions.
As of September, 4,885 Californians have petitioned the courts to have marijuana convictions expunged or reclassified, but many people don’t know about the process, which can be difficult, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, which supported Proposition 64.