New California Marijuana Law Helps Residents ‘Reclaim Their Lives’

Sacramento Capital Building

California has passed new legislation that will make it easier to expunge past marijuana convictions. When California voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016, the proposition included a way for residents to remove cannabis convictions from their records, but the process was convoluted and difficult. This new law allows California’s Department of Justice to do the work for residents. California is part of a growing number of states and cities that have adopted laws wiping away marijuana crimes as cannabis gains legalization around the country.

Table of Contents

  1. California Helps Residents Remove Past Marijuana Convictions
  2. More States and Cities Clearing Marijuana Convictions
  3. The Future of Marijuana Convictions

California Helps Residents Remove Past Marijuana Convictions

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that will help residents with marijuana convictions expunge their records.

Assembly Bill 1793 streamlines the expungement process, which was enacted with the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), a proposition passed by California voters in 2016 that legalized recreational marijuana.

Under AUMA, residents had to endure a lengthy, expensive, and confusing affair to expunge their former crimes.

The new legislation gives California’s Department of Justice the task of reviewing past convictions that are “potentially eligible for recall or dismissal of sentence, dismissal and sealing, or redesignation pursuant to AUMA” until July 1, 2019.

Afterward, prosecutors will have until July 1, 2020, to decide if they want to challenge the changes by the Department of Justice.

Rodney Holcombe, a legal fellow of Drug Policy Alliance — an organization that advocates for drug policies based on “science, compassion, health, and human rights” — believes this new legislation “creates an opportunity for people to reclaim their lives.”

An estimated 218,000 people will benefit from the new law, making it easier for them to receive loans, housing, and employment.

More States and Cities Clearing Marijuana Convictions

California is one of several entities that have passed legislation to expunge marijuana convictions after legalizing marijuana.

States like Colorado, Oregon, and Maryland and cities such as San Francisco, San Diego, and Seattle have also made it possible for past marijuana crimes to be cleared completely, sealed, or reduced from felonies to misdemeanors.

The Future of Marijuana Convictions

Acceptance of marijuana is growing across the country as states are continually voting on propositions that will loosen restrictions on cannabis. Currently, 30 states have passed medical marijuana laws, and nine of those 30 states have legalized recreational marijuana.

This fall, Michigan and North Dakota will vote on the legalization of recreational marijuana, while Utah and Missouri will vote on medical marijuana.

However, the majority of states that have legalized marijuana to some extent do not also allow the expungement of past marijuana crimes. Some lawmakers argue that since those convicted knowingly broke the law, they should not be let off the hook now.

Thus, California’s success in implementing its new legislation could either hinder or promote the movement for clearing marijuana convictions.

h/t USA Today