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Good news for stoners — San Francisco is wiping out your misdemeanor convictions for you

California law allows people to apply for dismissals, but in San Francisco, people convicted of misdemeanor marijuana offenses won't have to do a thing to get their records cleared

by Alexa Liautaud
Feb 1 2018, 12:50am

San Francisco will retroactively wipe out thousands of marijuana cases dating back to 1975 by applying California’s new laws legalizing recreational cannabis.

The city's District Attorney’s office said Wednesday that it will dismiss and seal 3,038 misdemeanors obtained before the passing of Proposition 64, legislation passed in November 2016 that legalizes recreational marijuana for those 21 and older. The move could provide much-needed relief to those facing obstacles to buying a house or finding a job because of a past criminal record.

The DA’s office said it would also review and resentence nearly 5,000 felony marijuana convictions to see if they should be downgraded to misdemeanors.

“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,” District Attorney George Gascón, said in a statement. “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.”

The state of California has already initiated the state-wide program, but San Francisco is taking it one step further, reviewing and dismissing its residents’ convictions on its own. Californians living elsewhere will still have to actively apply for the program.

“Although the initiative, which reduced criminal penalties for marijuana offenses after its passage in November 2016, provides reduction or dismissal upon a petition filed by a convicted individual, the San Francisco District Attorney’s 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. This will not require any action be taken by those who are eligible pursuant to Proposition 64,” the office explained in a statement.

Previously, those with misdemeanors from before the legalization law was passed could petition to get their case re-examined, but that process required lawyers and money. Now, in San Francisco, at least, Gascon has made that process obsolete.

“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,” he said.