Nearly 66,000 marijuana convictions in Los Angeles County will be dismissed thanks to California voters’ approval of Proposition 64, which legalized adult-use marijuana and made provisions for the expungement of old weed convictions – some dating back to 1961.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who made announcement on Feb. 13, 2020, called it the largest such undertaking in California’s history and the right thing to do.
“The dismissal of tens of thousands of old cannabis-related convictions in Los Angeles County will bring much-needed relief to communities of color that disproportionately suffered the unjust consequences of our nation’s drug laws,” Lacey said at a news conference.
The move is welcomed as an effort to reverse decades of racially disproportionate targeting of blacks and people of color, which has been a hallmark of the war on drugs.
“I am privileged to be part of a system dedicated to finding innovative solutions and implementing meaningful criminal justice reform that gives all people the support they need to build the life they deserve,” said D.A. Lacey.
What does it mean?
The 66,000 dismissals, which mark the completion of LA’s five-county Clear My Record pilot, means 22,000 people no longer have felonies on their records in California, and 15,000 no longer have a criminal record at all. Of the 53,000 people who received relief, 32% are black, 45% are Latino and 20% are white.
Clear My Record, a program that helps people expunge nonviolent marijuana convictions, is offered by the nonprofit Code for America.
Including the LA County cases, Clear My Record has helped prosecutors dismiss about 85,000 marijuana convictions across California.
“This is a clear demonstration that automatic record clearance is possible at scale and can help to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs,” Code for America senior criminal justice program director Evonne Silva said.
Other states doing the same
New Jersey, for instance, passed an expungement bill in Dec. 2019 even though it has failed repeatedly to legalize recreational cannabis.
The bill, signed into law by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, was accompanied by another, which enabled some 80,000 people in New Jersey to have their voting rights restored.
In Illinois, where legal cannabis sales began in Jan. 2020, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his associates created one of the most progressive and comprehensive expungement programs in the country.
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