It's rare for prosecutors to voluntarily dismiss cases. But thousands in one swoop? That gets headlines. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon announced Wednesday that his office will review and move to expunge thousands of Marijuana-related convictions in the city going back to 1975.
Reversing Course Requires Reversing Convictions
California voters legalized the recreational sale of marijuana by passing Proposition 64 in 2016. After decades criminalizing the possession, sale, and transportation of marijuana, the Golden State's about-face has upended California's marijuana laws.
It's also left decades worth of convictions for marijuana-related offenses on the books, despite many of those convictions no longer being considered crimes. Prop 64 accordingly created a legal process for people to petition a court to have their convictions thrown out, but the process can be tedious.
Dismissing Decades of Drug Convictions
Cue the San Francisco DA's announcement. San Francisco will apply Prop 64 retroactively, moving on its own to dismiss and seal 3,038 misdemeanor convictions entered prior to Prop 64's passage. As many as 4,940 felony marijuana convictions will, in due time, be recalled and resentenced as well.
It's a big solution to a big problem. Individuals convicted of marijuana offenses have to petition courts individually under the new law to remove their convictions. That kind of legal work takes initiative to commence, time to go to court, and money to file and hire lawyers -- three things many people with marijuana convictions might not have in abundance. The SF DA's move does it en masse.
What Happens Next?
In the absence of statewide legislation or similar efforts in other jurisdictions, Californians looking to utilize Prop 64's recall route will need to petition a court. That's something a good lawyer can help with.