L.A. County moves to wipe 66,000 marijuana convictions dating back to 1961

As part of a historic move for California, Los Angeles County District Jackie Lacey on Thursday announced plans to dismiss 66,000 marijuana convictions in the county dating back to 1961.

The effort is part of the five-county “Clear My Record” pilot program that will dismiss more than 85,000 convictions eligible under Proposition 64, which legalized adult cannabis use in California. The other counties include San Francisco, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Contra Costa.

In a news conference, Lacey said the effort will bring much-needed relief to communities of color that were disproportionately affected by the nation’s drug laws.

“These convictions should no longer burden those who have struggled to find a job or a place to live because of their criminal record,” she said.

To sort through the massive number of marijuana cases, the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office partnered with a nonprofit called Code for America, which developed a unique algorithm that can determine eligibility for thousands of convictions in seconds

State law AB 1793 mandates that all county prosecutors review convictions eligible for dismissal under Prop. 64 by July 1. Lacy, a career prosecutor who who is seeking reelection in March, said she has expanded the law’s parameters to include people who are 50 or older, and those who haven’t had a felony conviction in the past 10 years or have successfully completed probation for cannabis convictions.

Though thousands of people are eligible, only a small percentage have sought to clear their records under the state law because the previous process was time-consuming and required a court petition, Lacey said.

The new effort will immediately wipe convictions for 53,000 people. Of those, roughly 32% are Black or African American, 20% are White, 45% are Latinx.

The D.A.’s Office is also seeking to dismiss about 4,000 misdemeanor convictions in partnership with 10 city prosecutors, including Long Beach.

Long Beach City Prosecutor Doug Haubert on Thursday said the effort builds on the city’s Restoration Initiative for Safety and Employment (RISE) program, which launched last year to help residents expunge marijuana convictions, and seal low-level misdemeanor and felony records.

Haubert said Long Beach, like many urban areas, has been disproportionately impacted by high numbers of marijuana convictions. The city, he said, will benefit from the new effort.

“If these old convictions are making it harder for people to get jobs and find a place to live, then keeping them in the books is not making our community any safer,” he said.

To find out if your record has been cleared, or for more information about this initiative, contact the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office by phone at (323) 760-6763 or visit http://pubdef.lacounty.gov.

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Kelly Puente is a general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. Her prolific reporting has taken her all over Southern California—even to the small Catalina Island town of Two Harbors. She is a Tiki mug collector and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].
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