This past week, the state of California saw a huge win for marijuana justice. On September 30th, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1793. This legislation will lead to the review and expungement of marijuana convictions for thousands of Californians.
In November 2016, when Californians voted vastly in favor of Proposition 64, they were not only voting for the legalization of recreational marijuana. Following the adoption of Proposition 64, recreational dispensaries were finally able to open their doors on New Year’s day in 2018. As long as you have a valid ID, and are at least 18 years old, you are free to legally purchase and consume approved recreational products. An additional part of the ballot initiative granted individuals the right to petition the government in order to have past marijuana convictions expunged from their records.
Some California cities, like San Francisco, took the initiative to begin the expungement process and eliminate convictions dating back to 1975. In an interview with NPR, San Francisco District Attorney George Gaston spoke on the issue.
“The problem is that if you go through that process, you have to hire an attorney. You have to petition the court. You have to come for a hearing. It’s a very expensive and very cumbersome process,” he said in the interview. “The reality is that the majority of the people that were punished and were the ones that suffered in this war on marijuana, the war on drugs nationally were people that can ill afford to pay an attorney.”
Progress Made on Marijuana Record Expungement
It wasn’t until the signing of Assembly Bill 1793 that steps began to be made towards the process of record expungement easier and more accessible.
States like Oregon, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have already adopted similar expungement legislation. Meanwhile, California cannabis businesses have been thriving for nearly a year, while those with marijuana convictions have continued to be forced to live with their sentencing.
This new legislation will require the Department of Justice to take action before July 1, 2019. The will need to review all records in the state summary criminal history database. Following a review, eligible convictions will have the potential for recall or dismissal of sentencing, at which point prosecutors would have a year to decide on either vacating the charges or reducing them from a felony to a misdemeanor.