Bars on the door to an unoccupied prison cell.

Michael Coghlan

Prop. 64 Will Free People from Prison, Clear Records

About 2,000 people jailed in California for marijuana crimes are likely to be freed under Proposition 64, with thousands and possibly tens of thousands more potentially able to clear their criminal record of marijuana-related charges, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report.

The referendum not only legalized cannabis for adult use but also provided for the retroactive expungement of most marijuana-related convictions. According to the state attorney general’s office, California police made 8,866 arrests in 2015 for felony possession, sale, transportation and cultivation; 7,987 of those arrested were adults and 879 were juveniles.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe expects police to arrest and cite fewer people under the new regime because it won’t be worth the paperwork and man hours. He said it “will be common” for county jails to start releasing defendants charged with marijuana-related crimes who could not post bail because most of them have already served more time than they would if convicted of what is now considered a misdemeanor.

The number of people in California with previous marijuana convictions is unknown, but it is estimated in the hundreds of thousands — many of whom are low-income Black people who in 2010, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, were more than twice as likely to be arrested for possession in the state.

The California Judicial Council has already posted the forms for anyone seeking to expunge or seal their record, and people currently awaiting trial can ask for a sentence or charge reduction in-person at their next court date.

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