California’s lawmakers have passed a bill in the last few days that offers a legal framework to erase old marijuana convictions. If Governor Jerry Brown signs the bill into law, it is estimated that more than 218,000 cases could be reduced or overturned, according to CNN news. The AB 1793 bill targets the past marijuana-related convictions that were handed down before the legalization of marijuana in the state.
According to High Times, the bill was passed in a bipartisan vote of 22-8 on Wednesday. This is almost three months after the California State Assembly approved it by a vote of 43-28.
Under the bill, California’s Department of Justice will be forced to review the records for past cannabis convictions (between 1975 and 2016). The review will be required to determine convictions that are eligible for dismissal of sentence, recall, re-designation or dismissal and sealing under the existing marijuana laws. Moreover, the bill seeks to have all the eligible convictions reduced or overturned by July 2019.
As more states decriminalize or legalize the substance in the recent years, several advocates have pushed for all the past cannabis convictions to be overturned. However, California is just one of the many states that are currently reviewing their previous marijuana convictions. According to reports, New Jersey is also considering dropping some of its past marijuana-related convictions.
These particular crimes disproportionately affect people of color. According to the ACLU, it is 3.73 times more likely for a black person to be charged for possession of marijuana as compared to a white person.
However, despite the relatively permissive laws in the state, about 500,000 people in California were arrested on cannabis-related charges between 2006 and 2015. This is according to a study by a Drug Policy Alliance.
In 1996, California legalized medical marijuana for the first time and later passed a proposition to authorize the use of marijuana for recreational purposes in 2016. With the new bill, the prosecutors will have a year from the date that the bill becomes law to decide the cases that they will challenge.
California lawmakers pass bill to erase old marijuana convictions: http://thehill.com/regulation/pending-regs/403404-california-lawmakers-pass-bill-to-erase-old-marijuana-convictions
California passes bill to expunge old marijuana convictions: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/california-marijuana-expunge-convictions-passes_us_5b7f02efe4b0348585febd0f?ncid=engmodushpmg00000003
California lawmakers vote to wipe out old pot convictions: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/08/23/politics/california-marijuana-convictions-trnd/index.html
California prosecutors are clearing old marijuana convictions: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/2/1/16959330/california-marijuana-legalization-expunge