California arrest records have been wiped for those residents with previous convictions for marijuana. This follows an initiative back in 2016 whereby voters had backed to de-criminalise the use of marijuana (recreational use). Thousands could now have their pot convictions wiped (midemeanor) automatically while thousands more could see their felony charges re-categorized. The district attorney for San Francisco announced the move would be retroactive and that the new legislation would apply to all relevant California arrest records dating back to 1975. Around 3,000 midemeanor records could be wiped and sealed. A further 5,000 felony cases will be reviewed and possibly converted to lesser sentences.
California arrest records along with similar state wide thinking is that misdemeanours and felony’s involving marijuana possession represent a grey area in attempting to separate the nuisance value from dangerous intention. Criminal convictions remain a serious bar to employment, housing and benefits and has been shown to increase recidivism. Voters in San Francisco had, overwhelmingly, voted positively for legalisation. This allows those still serving out their punishments to make an application for the sentence to be reviewed while allowing those past offenders to have their records dismissed or reduced. However as at December the state confirmed it had only had around 5,000 petitions according to The Drug Policy Alliance since Prop 64 had taken effect.
In San Diego County similar efforts were also underway. Following the recent election a review had seen 680 residents benefit. The county had focused it’s efforts on those still in custody or on probation. Some of those currently incarcerated had been released. Predominantly black victims have benefited from the automation of the expungement process .Proposition 64 will address the federal war on drugs program. While it may well be positive news and see many lives turned round it is only too easy to forget the disruption and hardship that this had caused for decades to Californians and the resources in righting California arrest records. Even following State wide partial decriminalization in 1976, between 20,000 and 60,000 arrests were made by law enforcement each year to 2011. These arrests were for minor marijuana infractions. Possession of at least an ounce was a ticketable offense without an associated misdemeanor charge.
The Trump administration was also under fire and as a contrast to San Francisco the federal drug policy is seen as going backwards. Jeff Sessions has been sceptical of relaxing marijuana laws recently rescinding the detached federal approach (legal marijuana states). Cannabis having been seen as a dangerous substance. The States that have legalised cannabis have slammed this decision. Both Democrats and Republicans have accused Sessions of ducking previous promises and ignoring the rights of States. Irrespective if thousands of petitions had been granted and expungements were wiped automatically this would barely scratch the surface. The backlog of previous misdemeanours stands at significant levels.
Cannabis arrests (Misdemeanor) through 1976 to 2016 totalled 1,457,605 however the correlation isn’t relative to previous misdemeanours. The figure of almost 1.5 million may be slightly off centre as some arrests may well not have seen a conviction. While some individual’s may be responsible for more than one arrest, asides from this cannabis charges should fall off automatically after a two year period. The process though can not be relied upon and most have to file to to clear their record. Please follow this link to read more about the Drug Policy Alliance efforts for Marijuana Reform in California.