Lawmakers approved a measure requiring prosecutors to expunge or reduce sentences for cannabis-related convictions dating back decades. The bill now awaits Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature, according to the Associated Press.
Passed by the state Senate on Wednesday Aug. 22 by a 22-8 vote, the bill would require California’s Department of Justice to review cases dating as far back as 1975 through 2016 to determine eligibility.
Built into Proposition 64 that legalized recreational marijuana in 2016, was the intention to eliminate some pot-related crimes, although there were no legal mechanisms in place on how to do that or how to have felonies reduced to misdemeanors. Now, the process is being applied retroactively to pot convictions.
More than 4,000 people had already petitioned the courts regarding their marijuana-related crimes but it is believed that many people are unaware that expungement is an option.
According to an estimate from the state justice department, there are more than 218,000 convictions that could be eligible to either be wiped out or downgraded to misdemeanors.
The bill requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to scour California's crime records and seek out past cannabis convictions that are eligible to be expunged. It will also oblige the DOJ to find and deal with felony pot-related convictions that should be downgraded to misdemeanors.
During floor debate on the bill, State Sen. Scott Wiener, one of its co-sponsors, said the bill “creates a simpler pathway for Californians to turn the page,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
If the proposed bill is signed and goes into effect, state officials will have until July 1, 2019 to determine which cases are eligible for review, turn them over to the district attorney's office, which has another year to decide if it has any objections.
State law gives Brown 12 days from Aug. 22 to sign or veto the legislation or it becomes law without his signature.