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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 7, 2018

    Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez at a press conference today announced his intent to vacate over ten thousand low-level marijuana convictions.

    Though state lawmakers decriminalized minor marijuana possession offenses in 1977, possessing small amounts of cannabis “in public view” remains a criminal misdemeanor. City police have made several hundred thousand arrests since the late 1990s for violation of the ‘public use’ statute – primarily due to aggressive ‘stop and frisk’ policing. Over 80 percent of those arrested were either Black or Latino.

    Under the DA’s newly announced initiative, those with low-level convictions will be eligible to have their criminal records vacated beginning September 21. Prosecutors estimate that the effort may ultimately result in the expungement of some 20,000 past convictions.

    Earlier this year, DA Gonzalez, along with Manhattan DA Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. declared that their offices would no longer prosecute low-level marijuana offenses. “It’s a little unfair to say we’re no longer prosecuting these cases, but to have these folks carry these convictions for the rest of their lives,” Gonzalez told The Associated Press .

    In recent months, District Attorneys in a number of metropolitan areas, such as San Francisco and Seattle, have begun the process of reviewing and vacating past, low-level marijuana convictions. Lawmakers in several states – including Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, and Rhode Island – have enacted expungement laws following the passage of either marijuana decriminalization or legalization. In California, legislation providing for mandatory expungement of past marijuana convictions is awaiting the Governor’s signature. An estimated 220,000 cases would be eligible for erasure or a reduction under the proposed California law.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 23, 2018

    Members of the California Assembly and Senate have approved legislation to facilitate the review and expungement of past marijuana convictions.

    Assembly members approved the bill, AB 1793, by a vote of 43 to 28, while members of the Senate passed the measure by a vote of 28 to 10. The legislation now awaits final action by Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown.

    If enacted, the measure “would require the Department of Justice, before July 1, 2019, to review the records in the state summary criminal history information database and to identify past convictions that are potentially eligible for recall or dismissal of sentence, dismissal and sealing, or redesignation pursuant to AUMA (the Adult Use Marijuana Act).” Prosecutors would have up to a year to then expunge the conviction.

    Regulators estimate that some 220,000 cases would be eligible for erasure or a reduction under the law.

    To date, district attorney offices in a number of California cities and counties, including San Francisco and San Diego, have voluntarily moved to review and expunge past cannabis convictions.

    Elected officials in Oregon and Massachusetts have enacted similar expungement laws following the enactment of adult use legalization.

    If you reside in California, you can encourage Gov. Brown to sign AB 1793 into law by clicking here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 6, 2018

    The District Attorney’s Office for Sonoma County, California (population 502,000) is directing staff to review and vacate thousands of past marijuana convictions.

    County officials estimate that an estimated 3,000 cases are eligible for either a sentencing reduction or expungement.

    The Sonoma County D.A.’s actions follow those of district attorneys for Alameda County, San Diego County, and San Francisco — each of which have moved to pro-actively review and dismiss thousands of past marijuana-related convictions.

    Provisions in the state’s 2016 voter-approved marijuana law allow those with past marijuana convictions to petition the court for expungement. Legislation is pending in the California Assembly, AB 1793, to make this process automatic for anyone with an eligible past cannabis conviction.

    Last month, Seattle city officials publicly announced plans to similarly review and vacate past cannabis convictions. Days later, newly elected Philadelphia D.A. Larry Krasner announced that his office would cease prosecuting marijuana possession offense violations.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 20, 2018

    The District Attorney for Alameda County has announced her intent to automatically vacate thousands of past marijuana convictions. Alameda County, which includes Oakland, is the 7th-most populous county in California.

    According to the DA’s office, there are an estimated 6,000 marijuana convictions eligible for either a sentence reduction or a dismissal.

    “California is offering a second chance to people convicted of cannabis crimes, from felonies to small infractions, with the opportunity to have their criminal records cleared,” Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Mally said in a press statement. “We … intend to reverse decades of cannabis convictions that can be a barrier for people to gain meaningful employment.”

    The policy change comes weeks after the San Francisco District Attorney’s office announced that it will review, dismiss, and seal an estimated 3,000 misdemeanor marijuana convictions dating back to 1975.

    Seattle officials have also announced a similar plan to dismiss past convictions, opining, “[T]his action is a necessary first step in righting the wrongs of the past and putting our progressive values into action.” Last week, newly elected Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner also announced that his office will no longer prosecute marijuana possession offense violations.