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California Bill Would Force Courts to Expunge Low-Level Cannabis Crimes

A bill introduced in California would make it easier for individuals with low-level cannabis convictions to expunge the charge from their records. The measure, introduced by Democratic Rep. Rob Bonta, would require courts to automatically expunge eligible records under provisions of the voter-approved Prop 64.

The legalization measure, which took effect on Jan. 1, also allows defendants to petition their sentencing court for a sentence reduction; however, courts are not obligated to take any action on a case without a petition.

In a press release announcing the legislation, Bonta said that the measure would “give people a fresh start to which they are legally entitled.”

“Long after paying their debt to society, the collateral consequences of having a criminal conviction continues to disrupt their lives in profound ways such as preventing them from gaining employment or finding housing. The role of government should be to ease burdens and expedite the operation of law – not create unneeded obstacles, barriers and delay. This is a practical, common sense bill. These individuals are legally-entitled to expungement or reduction and a fresh start. It should be implemented without unnecessary delay or burden.” – Bonta, in a statement

The measure would force courts to expunge the records of those convicted of possession under the new regime – up to 28.5 grams of cannabis and 8 grams of concentrate – but it would not force courts to seek sentence reduction for those currently incarcerated.

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