Los Angeles to Dismiss Over 58,000 Cannabis Convictions

Time to move forward and try to make the future a much better place than the past.

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This story originally appeared on Cannabis.net

Getting back the years spent behind bars is one of the most challenging thing to do as an individual. Sadly, too many people have been convicted for cannabis related crimes over the last decade since its prohibition in California. The truth is many of these people will find it very difficult to get their lives back. Time lost is something that can never be regained. However, this sad reality doesn't mean we shouldn't move forward and try to make the future a much better place than the past.

We all know about the unfortunate past of California with massive incarceration of people for cannabis crimes. The good news right now is the fact that tens of thousands of people convicted of cannabis crimes in Los Angeles will soon be released from jail.

Close to sixty thousand people found guilty of cannabis-related crimes in Los Angeles will have all charges dropped and expunged. This will bring the total sum of expunged marijuana convictions in the state to around 124,000 since last year.

On Monday, the District Attorney of Los Angeles County, George Gascón, confirmed the good news. He mentioned that his office had identified 58,000 cannabis convictions that are to be dismissed. He also noted that this specific action addresses the "injustices of drug laws," within the state.

Some of the cases to be dismissed include a considerable percentage of misdemeanour charges of use and possession of the plant. Not just that, cases of felony convictions for cannabis cultivation will also be dismissed.

Progress long overdue

In 2016, California voters were able to pass Proposition 64, which legalized the use of cannabis for adults (21 years and above). The legislation established a recreational cannabis market within the state. The objective of the cannabis market is to have, license, and regulate the manufacture, cultivation, and sales of marijuana.

That's not all; the legislation also set up a structure for the state's judicial system. And this structure allows for the dismissal, sealing, and resentencing of previous cannabis cases.

By 2018, the California legislature came through on their promises. The AB 1793 mandate was passed, which allows the state's justice department to go through records of cannabis convictions. Only convictions that are considered legal under the new state's recreational marijuana market can be dismissed.

One of the many names that have fought the long fight is Felicis Carbajal of Social Impact Center and District Attorney of Los Angeles County, George Gascón. George Gascón co-authored Proposition 64, which is a stepping stone for what the cannabis community has achieved today. The Social Impact Center, also as a local nonprofit organization, has assisted the county in identifying batches of cases.

Following the announcement of the dismissal of 58,000 cannabis convictions, Felicis Carbajal, the executive director of the Social Impact Center, made some vital comments. According to him, the time to absolve old cannabis convictions was "long due."

Carbajal talked about the hard work and effort put into making something this big happen. He was also very grateful for how far the community had come. During his speech, Carbajal reiterated how it is a tragedy that people had to go to jail just for cannabis use. He hopes that by expunging these records, these individuals can have a better chance at life.

L.A. keeping its word

This wouldn't be the first time  Los Angeles County would be erasing a lot of people's cannabis criminal records. Before Gascón came to the LA scene, the D.A.'s office had overturned 66,000 cannabis convictions under a different prosecutor. The demographic breakdown of the dismissed cases includes; 20% white, one-third black, and 50% Latino.

However, when Gascón came to the scene, he was the perfect man for the job. Gascón was previously the D.A. in San Francisco and has worked to overturn many people's cannabis records. As a result, he blended in perfectly and participated in the new achievement. Following the announcement, the total of all dismissed cases will now exceed 120,000. But, the demographics for these upcoming dismissals have not been made available.

This is because a person can have more than one marijuana conviction overturned. Hence, the district attorney's office is not quick to give the statistics of next week's events. For example, the 66,000 convictions overturned last year covered 53,000 people. According to CNN, California officials have evaluated more than 218,000 cannabis convictions across the state since 2018. And these convictions could be eventually overturned.

Other states reviewing cannabis-related convictions

California is not the only state reviewing criminal records relating to cannabis. Officials in Illinois and New Jersey have also overturned hundreds of thousands of cannabis-related convictions. In fact, New York City, which just legislated adult use of cannabis in March, has also taken the baton. Officials in New York automatically overturn cannabis convictions before the new legislation that is now considered legal.

Some senators are also making efforts to legalize cannabis federally in the house. The proposed bill was submitted by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Sen. Cory Booker. The bill is said to legalize cannabis, remove it from the Controlled Substances Act, and overturn past cannabis convictions.

The senators included the immediate dismissal of nonviolent cannabis crimes at the federal level in the proposed draft. If the bill is passed, many individuals doing time in federal prisons for nonviolent cannabis-related crimes can appeal for resentencing.