California follows other states in expunging marijuana convictions

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California Department of Justice says, The legislation will allow residents to “reclaim their lives”

A newly-approved law in California aims to allow Californians to “reclaim their lives.” The law will make it easier for those with prior cannabis-related convictions to have their records completely expunged or have their sentences reduced significantly.

Introduced through Assembly Bill 1793, the law easily passed through the state’s legislature and was signed by Governor Jerry Brown Sunday night. According to Rodney Holcombe of the New York City-based Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), “This is transformative. This creates an opportunity for people to reclaim their lives.”

California isn’t the first state to introduce legislation that clears criminals records of certain marijuana convictions – Massachusetts, Colorado, Oregon Maryland and New Hampshire have already enacted similar laws. However, it is the first to automate the system and could prove to be a game-changer for countless residents. Under current laws, those with criminal records are rejected for student loans, housing assistance and jobs. Expunging their records will open new doors and allow them to get on with their lives.

Assemblymember Ron Bonta, who introduced the legislation, stated, “The failed war on drugs has, in so many ways, wreaked havoc, damage, pain and anguish on so many Californians. This is where [the] government can step in and make it better.”

Beginning January 1, the California Department of Justice will have seven months to review all marijuana cases. It must send qualifying petitions to the district attorneys of the relevant counties, who will have a year to challenge or grant the petition. Those who are currently serving sentences for marijuana-related convictions will be given priority.

The DPA’s Holcombe added, “Popular opinion has changed so much,” Holcombe said. “Lots of support has already been generated around the folks who have been convicted and are still burdened by these collateral consequences – and there’s growing interest in remedying that. My hope is that this momentum can continue, and we can use California as a guide on how to move forward.”