Under authorities granted by the November 2016 California ballot initiative Proposition 64 that legalized recreational marijuana for individuals 21 and older in the state, San Franscisco District Attorney George Gascón has announced in a statement that his office “will be reviewing, recalling and resentencing up to 4,940 felony marijuana convictions and dismissing and sealing 3,038 misdemeanors which were sentenced prior to the initiative’s passage.”
“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,” announced District Attorney George Gascón. “Long ago we lost our ability to distinguish the dangerous from the nuisance, and it has broken our pocket books, the fabric of our communities, and we are no safer for it. While this relief is already available pursuant to Proposition 64 for anyone with a conviction, it requires that they know it is available and to retain an attorney to file the expungement paperwork. 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.”
While Proposition 64 does allow those convicted under past marijuana-related statutes to petition for their cases to be dismissed at their own expense, Los Angeles defense attorney Eric Shevin told The Los Angeles Times, “District attorneys certainly have the right to research their own records and dismiss these cases on their own, en masse.”
Convicts who do not pose an “unreasonable risk of danger to public safety” are eligible to have their misdemeanor charges wiped out or felony charges reclassified as misdemeanors. Those who have violent or sex crimes on their records or who have sold drugs to children or across state lines will not be among those whose charges will be dropped.
According to The San Francisco Chronicle, Gascón will begin wiping out the misdemeanor charges right away, but clearing out the felony convictions “will take a little more time… It will be a lot of clerical work, and we will evaluate as we start reviewing felonies.”
District Attorney George Gascón’s biography on the official website of the City and County of San Francisco emphasizes his record on criminal justice reform and reducing over-incarceration through “alternative approaches to traditional prosecution.”
The Drug Policy Alliance told The San Francisco Chronicle that almost 5,000 people have petitioned to have their pot charges expunged since the passage of Proposition 64.