California lawmakers move to help expunge pot-related convictions

Aug. 22, 2018, 11:51 a.m.

By PATRICK MCGREEVY

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California lawmakers move to help expunge pot-related convictions

California lawmakers voted Wednesday to ease the process for clearing the records of those convicted in the past of marijuana offenses.
California lawmakers voted Wednesday to ease the process for clearing the records of those convicted in the past of marijuana offenses.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

California lawmakers move to help expunge pot-related convictions
California lawmakers voted Wednesday to ease the process for clearing the records of those convicted in the past of marijuana offenses.
California lawmakers voted Wednesday to ease the process for clearing the records of those convicted in the past of marijuana offenses.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times) With marijuana legalized by the state’s voters, Californians with past convictions for cannabis-related

offenses would get state help in expunging their records under a bill sent by lawmakers to the governor on Wednesday.
Proposition 64, which state voters approved in 2016, legalized the sale and use of marijuana for recreational use and permitted those with

past convictions for the activity to petition the courts to clear their records. But state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) told his colleagues

Wednesday that the process is complicated, and many with pot convictions do not know about the opportunity. AB 1793, which was approved

by the state Senate on Wednesday, “creates a simpler pathway for Californians to turn the page,” Wiener said during the floor debate.
The legislation is supported by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles

County district attorney’s office. Some Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Jim Nielsen of Gerber, opposed the measure.
“This directs us to forget any prior behavior that was illegal,” Nielsen told his colleagues. “They should not be given a pass.”
The measure requires the state Department of Justice to prepare a list by July 1, 2019, of those convicted of marijuana crimes  who are                                                                                                                                                                              eligible to have them expunged, and to provide those names to the county prosecutors who handled the original cases.
Prosecutors would have one year to challenge any dismissal of convictions based on concerns that the action presents “an

unreasonable risk to public safety.” The bill would then require the court to reduce or dismiss the convictions, with priority given to

those currently serving jail sentences. The Drug Policy Alliance estimates there are some 500,000 people who were arrested for

cannabis-related felonies and misdemeanors between 2006 and 2015, but only about 5,000 of those had petitioned to have their records

modified as of last September.Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda), who introduced the measure, argued that “the role of government

should be to ease burdens and expedite the operation of law — not create unneeded obstacles, barriers and delay.”