New California Law Gives Previous Marijuana Offenders a Break
A new marijuana law was recently passed by legislators in California
This is great news for those convicted of marijuana related charges in the Golden State. These individuals will have their current sentences lessened or their record expunged. For example, possession of marijuana with intent to sell, will under the new law, be lessened to a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
The bill, which was introduced by Rob Banta, a Democrat, and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, will give individuals previously convicted on marijuana charges, a brand-new start.
Since the sale and taxation of cannabis in California went into effect on January 1, residents and visitors of the state who are 21 years and older can now legally possess an amount not exceeding 28.5 grams of pot. Although, it’s still illegal to drive while under the influence or be caught with possession on school grounds, cannabis is no longer an illegal substance in California per state law and a dozen other states across the U.S.
The rationale behind this new law stems from the fact that most previous cannabis-related crimes in California have now been legalized. Individuals with convictions like cultivation, manufacturing, and possession of pot can now receive reduced sentences and their records expunged or sealed.
The state of California has gone even further to automate the system, all thanks to technology. Automating the system will hasten the expunging of convictions. It’s estimated that nearly 218,000 individuals will benefit from this new legislation.
Why is the Number of Cases Reversed so Low?
From 2006-2015 half a million Californians have been arrested for marijuana-related crimes. Since marijuana has been legalized in the state, only 5,000 have petitioned for their records to be reviewed and changed. Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) stated that the reasons most people have not applied for their record to be changed is because they don’t know that they can and intimidation of the court system.
Is It A Smart Move?
It was only a matter of time before this bill was introduced. With the legalization of marijuana, it would be unfair for people convicted with cultivation and possession of pot to have their sentences continue to adversely affect their lives. For instance, individuals with cannabis-related convictions have a harder time securing jobs, loans, and housing while having a criminal record.
It’s worse for minority communities. According to a study by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Drug Policy Alliance, black people have a 3.76% higher probability of being arrested on cannabis-related charges compared to their white counterparts. This speaks volumes about the fairness of the newly passed law.
Attempts at Damage Control
Los Angeles and Oakland are aware of the damage that the War on Drugs has had on the black community. Blacks were disproportionately targeted in drug arrests and convictions. In an effort to rectify the damage done to communities of color, Los Angeles and Oakland has set up social equity programs to give individuals from disenfranchised communities, who have been convicted of non-violent marijuana crimes, priority in the issuing of dispensary and retail licenses.
Records Expedited through Automation
Proposition 64, responsible for legalizing adult-use of cannabis in the state, added a provision which allowed those convicted to request to have their pot-related records expunged. Rather than place the time-consuming and tedious job in the hands of individuals, the automated system will search through thousands of records to find those who qualify to have their records deleted.
The Assembly Bill 1793 passed by the majority of the state legislature, will streamline the lengthy process that initially made it difficult for individuals with marijuana-related convictions to have their names cleared.
This measure is the latest effort by California to help people convicted with cannabis-related charges, to move on with their lives.
States That Have Adopted Marijuana Conviction Reversals
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom sees the move as a model for the rest of the country. He termed it as, “An urgent issue of social justice here in California.”
States across the U.S. are attempting to give people a second chance who have been imprisoned for crimes that are now legal in their states. Oregon, Massachusetts, Maryland, Colorado and New Hampshire have passed laws allowing people who have prior marijuana related convictions to have their records expunged or sealed. This seems to be a trend and will most likely be implemented in states where marijuana becomes legalized.
We hope that you will engage with us and share with us some stories you may know of friends, families and acquaintances that have gone through this process of expunging their records. We also love to hear shared stories from those that were victims of this trend but have yet to get their records expunged or sealed.