Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey has announced the dismissal of 66,000 cannabis-related convictions.
The dismissals are made nearly 15 years after the state legalized medical cannabis and nearly four years after its legalization of adult-use cannabis. They are now designed to mitigate the damage caused by decades of arrests stemming from the War on Drugs that disproportionately targeted racialized and other vulnerable communities.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey filed a motion in Los Angeles County Superior Court requesting the erasure of 62,000 felony cannabis convictions, dating back to the early 1960s, as well as 4,000 misdemeanor convictions in cities across the U.S. The motion was signed to order this week by Judge Sam Ohta.Of the 53,000 Californians affected by the dismissals, 45 per cent identify as Latino, 32 per cent as Black, and 20 per cent as Caucasian.
As a result, there are 22,000 Americans who will no longer have felonies listed on their records in the state, and another 15,000 Americans who will now have no criminal record at all. “What this does is correct that inequity of the past,” Lacey told the Los Angeles Times. “It gives them a start, a new start.”
At a news conference this week, Lacey, who is seeking a third term running the office of the DA and will face a voter decision in the March 3 primary, said that her office sought to dismiss felony convictions for cultivating, selling, or transporting cannabis for residents under 21 or over 50 who have not received another felony conviction over the past decade or have completed probation for cannabis-related convictions.
The move was carried out in partnership with the non-profit Code for America, which developed an algorithm to analyze the county’s data to evaluate which cases could qualify to be vacated under Proposition 64, which legalized adult-use cannabis and the home cultivation of up to six plants.
The algorithm can scan approximately 10,000 records in just “seconds,” according to Code for America senior program director of criminal justice Evonne Silva.
California legislation requires that state prosecutors review all cannabis-related convictions that could be eligible for erasure by July 2020 and must automatically clear those it opts not to contest.
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Written by Emma Spears