Nighttime view of the San Francisco sprawl with a full moon above it.

Matt Biddulph

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón will retroactively apply criminal justice reforms in the state’s cannabis legalization law to misdemeanor and felony convictions dating back to 1975.

Who’s Affected? Individuals with prior cannabis convictions that would not be crimes under the new law. The District Attorney’s Office plans to review, recall, and resentence up to 4,940 felony cannabis convictions and dismiss and seal 3,038 misdemeanors.

Although the law allows individuals with convictions to petition to have the charges reduced or dismissed, Gascón’s plan will require no action by the individual. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, just 4,885 Californians have petitioned the courts to have their cannabis convictions expunged since the initiative’s passage.

“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 pocket books, the fabric of our communities, and we are no safer for it. While this relief is already available pursuant to Proposition 64 for anyone with a conviction, it requires that they know it is available and to retain an attorney to file the expungement paperwork. 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.” — Gascón, in a press release.

According to the office, there were an estimated 2,756,778 cannabis arrests in California between 1915 and 2016.

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