On Wednesday, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced that city prosecutors would retroactively apply Proposition 64, a California law which legalizes the possession and purchase of up to an ounce of marijuana and allows individuals over the age of 21 to grow up to six plants for personal use. Furthermore, the measure will effectively expunge thousands of convictions of individuals charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana dating as far back to 1975. California voters approved the measure back in 2016, and the law took effect this year.
The city of San Francisco is taking the marijuana legalization movement even further in the automatic expunging of thousands of misdemeanor convictions while also requiring district courts to review and re-sentence thousands more felony marijuana cases.
The executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Laura Thomas, has stated that there are more than 1 million Californians who could benefit from having their records expunged. The Drug Policy Alliance approximates that 5,000 Californian have already applied for expungement since the passing the proposition back in November of 2016.
The San Francisco district attorney explained that his office was motivated to proceed with these changes after greater than 75 percent of the population of San Francisco voted to in favor of Proposition 64.
This comes as excellent news to an extraordinary amount of Californians whose marijuana-related criminal background may have barred them for many jobs, bank and student loans, as well as other essential government benefits.
Millions of people in the state of California have a misdemeanor and felony convictions related to marijuana, and most will be unaffected by Francisco’s retroactive legalization. However, there’s hope that this action will be a significant first step in the direction of much broader policy changes throughout the state’s entirety. On January 9th, California Assembly Member Rob Bonta introduced a bill which seeks to provide every Californian “automatic expungement or reduction of a prior cannabis conviction.”
In the case that Assemblyman Bonta’s bill does become law, implementing the comprehensive changes it mandates would take millions of dollars and several years.
D.A. Gascón went on record to say, “What we want to make sure is … that people who were really the victims of the war on drugs, in general terms, and are people that are trying to get their lives in the right direction, that they get the relief they deserve. We have damaged a lot of people in our community.”
Some would say that these people broke a law that was in place at the time of their arrest and that they should live with the consequences. What do you think?