San Francisco’s District Attorney George Gascón announced on Wednesday that the city will be reviewing and retroactively clearing or reducing thousands of marijuana-related convictions dating back to 1975, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
According to the Los Angeles Times close to 5,000 felony marijuana convictions and 3,000 misdemeanors will be reviewed. All of these cases were sentenced before California passed Proposition 64 in November 2016, which legalized the purchase and possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and permits people to grow up to six plants for their own use. And Prop 64 allows individuals whose sentences would have been lesser or non-existent under the new laws to petition to have their records expunged.
But now, as the DA made clear in his announcement, individuals hoping to have their records reviewed won’t even need to file a petition. “Instead of waiting for people to petition,” said Gascón, “we have decided that we will do so ourselves.”
Gascón also said of the city’s new initiative:
“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. Long ago we lost our ability to distinguish the dangerous from the nuisance, and it has broken our pocketbooks, the fabric of our communities, and we are no safer for it.”
Marijuana convictions can have dire consequences beyond just time served, becoming a determining factor in whether someone qualifies for federally subsidized housing, disability insurance, and student loans. And marijuana-related arrests disproportionately affect people of color. A 2013 ACLU study found that in San Francisco black people were four times as likely as white people to be arrested for pot possession.