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California to throw out thousands of marijuana convictions

When the state of California passed Proposition 64, which effectively legalized the use and growth of marijuana for personal use, it signaled a radical shift in drug prosecution. Would-be offenders facing charges for simple possession seemed no longer destined to clog the state’s court dockets. While this particular piece of legislation was a boon for justice reform, some wondered what was to become of the many that already held convictions for a now-legalized substance.

In response to this query, some California cities have begun retroactively tossing out marijuana convictions.  In San Francisco, for example, the district attorney’s office will be looking to review nearly 5,000 felony marijuana convictions, on top of dismissing and sealing more than 3,000 misdemeanors. In what could become a statewide trend, this potential reprieve may end up changing a significant number of lives.

What will these mean for those have prior convictions?

For those carrying a drug conviction, life can be a bit hamstrung. A marijuana-related stain on your record can make it difficult to find a job or place to live, as well as hampering your ability to get student loans or professional licenses. With so many living with convictions for something that’s now legal, some cities have taken proactive measures to reconcile these cases.

In San Diego, the district attorney will be knocking felony marijuana charges down to a misdemeanor, while dismissing misdemeanor charges altogether. Other cities, like Fresno and Santa Clara, are taking a more case-by-case approach, identifying specific charges to review. For those who are living with a criminal record, or even worse sitting in jail, these moves could be hugely consequential.  

When will this come to LA County and beyond?

Currently, Los Angeles County is sitting on some 40,000 felony convictions for marijuana-related offenses. While it’s unknown how many of those qualify for relief, the number of people who would be affected is likely not insignificant. For their part, LA County is actively looking into a plan to begin clearing cases, and other jurisdictions around the state are doing the same.

In the meantime, those currently wondering if they’re eligible to review their charges may benefit from seeking out legal counsel. It’s possible for individuals to petition their case, but an attorney could be of considerable help. Until uniform plans to deal prior convictions are in place, it may be wise for affected parties to be proactive.

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