Los Angeles to Finally Erase 66,000 Unjust Pot Convictions
This is great news, but there are a few catches to this long-overdue, bittersweet deal.
Published on February 14, 2020

On Thursday, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced that her office convinced the court to dismiss nearly 66,000 marijuana convictions going as far back as 1961.

"We believe it is the largest effort in California to wipe out old criminal convictions in a single court motion," Lacey said during a press conference.

In 2018, two years after Californians approved the weed legalization referendum Proposition 64, the state passed Assembly Bill 1793 which required prosecutors to knock down previous felony pot convictions to mere misdemeanors. But Lacey went above and beyond by clearing tens of thousands of prior cannabis convictions altogether. After all, marijuana laws have always been unfairly enforced against people of color, and it looks bad when a state is raking in millions of dollars on weed taxes while continuing to persecute working-class people over the same plant. 

According to the LA Times, 22,000 people will see weed-related felonies cleared from their records, and another 15,000 will no longer have any criminal records, period. Among those getting convictions dismissed, 45 percent are Latino, 32 percent are black, and 20 percent are white.

Carrying a weed conviction on one’s criminal record, especially a felony offense, can seriously screw up anyone’s life. A conviction can harm an individual’s ability to find a job, housing, loans, credit lines, and it can negatively affect someone’s child custody, divorce, or pending criminal cases. Which is why Lacey’s office requested the courts to seal these prior records, too. 

"If you have a record, you don't have to worry about even going through and having it sealed... We're making a motion to seal it because we realize that's the issue," Lacey explained. "When you go to apply for a job, you go to apply for housing and your record comes up, even though we've expunged it, that may not give you help."

Of course, there are a few catches to this long-overdue, bittersweet deal. The dismissals only apply if (1) you’re over 50-years-old, (2) you were convicted while younger than 21 years old, (3) you completed probation without any additional violations, or (4) you weren’t convicted of any other crimes within the last decade. 

Los Angeles has now joined several other US cities — and the entire states of Illinois and Colorado — with criminal record expungements and other social justice provisions attached to legalizing weed. The MORE Act, a federal marijuana legalization bill still being considered by Congress, would automatically include criminal record expungements if signed into law by President Trump.

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Randy Robinson
Based in Denver, Randy studied cannabinoid science while getting a degree in molecular biology at the University of Colorado. When not writing about cannabis, science, politics, or LGBT issues, they can be found exploring nature somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Catch Randy on Twitter and Instagram @randieseljay
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