San Francisco is becoming a trailblazer in the new age of marijuana laws, saying it will dismiss all marijuana misdemeanor convictions dating back to 1975. That means anyone who was convicted of a marijuana-related misdemeanor will suddenly have a clean record. In total, prosecutors will dismiss and seal the 3,038 marijuana-related misdemeanors convictions dating as far back as 1975. In addition, prosecutors will review 4,940 felony marijuana cases to decide whether they should be reduced to misdemeanors.
Proposition 64, which voters approved in November 2016 not only legalized marijuana for recreational use but also allowed people with marijuana-related convictions to petition a court to have their case reexamined. But that petition can take time and money so District Attorney George Gascón said prosecutors will review and dismiss convictions automatically. The unprecedented move puts San Francisco at the forefront of adjusting past convictions to the current realities of legalized marijuana.
“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. “A criminal conviction can be a barrier to employment, housing and other benefits, so instead of waiting for the community to take action, we’re taking action for the community.”
The Drug Policy Alliance says there were nearly half a million marijuana felony and misdemeanor arrests in California between 2006 and 2015. And Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom said San Francisco’s move could serve as a model for other jurisdictions. “This example, one of many across our state, underscores the true promise of Proposition 64—providing new hope and opportunities to Californians, primarily people of color, whose lives were long ago derailed by a costly, broken and racially discriminatory system of marijuana criminalization,” Newsom said. “This isn’t just an urgent issue of social justice here in California—it’s a model for the rest of the nation.”