LA District Attorney To Release 60,000 Cannabis Convictions

Tens of thousands of cannabis convictions will get dismissed in California as part of an ongoing effort by Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón.

Gascón on Monday announced that nearly 60,00 cannabis convictions, as identified by The Social Impact Center, will be dismissed.

The announcement is part of the Week of Action and Awareness, formerly known as National Expungement Week, which runs from September 26 to October 3.

A co-author of Proposition 64, the measure that legalized cannabis in California in 2016, Gascón has been on the front lines of erasing prior cannabis convictions.

Putting Convictions in the Past

Los Angeles County dismissed nearly 66,000 cannabis convictions in 2020 following the passage of Assembly Bill 1793, which required California prosecutors to affirmatively review them.

According to a press release, the reviews only covered state Department of Justice cases, but further investigation of Los Angeles County court records revealed approximately 58,000 additional felony and misdemeanor cases dating back more than 30 years.

The cases were eligible for dismissal.

“Dismissing these convictions means the possibility of a better future to thousands of disenfranchised people who are receiving this long-needed relief,” says Gascón. “It clears the path for them to find jobs, housing, and other services that previously were denied to them because of unjust cannabis laws.”

Los Angeles County will dismiss nearly 125,000 cases, though the DA’s office says the most recent batch may surprise people who thought theirs were already expunged or not eligible for resentencing.

Executive Director of The Social Impact Center Felicia Carbajal says she has made it her life mission to support people who have been affected by the drug war.

“Giving people with cannabis convictions a new lease on life by expunging records is something I have worked on for years,” says Carbajal. “And I am grateful that we can now make it happen.”

Carbajal joined Gascón on Monday, along with former Drug Policy Alliance Director Lynne Lyman, Public Defender Ricardo Garcia, and Alternate Public Defender Erika Anzoategui.

Past Convictions are a Stumbling Block

While no law requires prosecutors to take further action after reviewing cannabis convictions, Gascón wanted to seal records and ensure past convictions would no longer affect anyone’s employment, immigration status, or bar them from receiving education.

Lynne Lyman says the dismissal efforts are the unfinished work of Proposition 64.

“We created the opportunity for old cannabis convictions to be cleared, but it was up to local district attorneys to actually make it happen,” says Lyman. “Proposition 64 was always about more than legal week, it was an intentional effort to repair the past harms of the war on drugs and cannabis prohibition, which disproportionately targeted people of color. I applaud District Attorney Gascón for taking this action to help nearly 60,000 Angelenos have their records fully sealed.”

Public Defender Ricardo Garcia says that Gascón has taken an important step toward justice reform through a mass dismissal of cannabis convictions, restoration of dignity, and providing new opportunities to people impacted by outdated, tough-on-crime anti-drug laws.

Garcia says many of those people are the most vulnerable in the community and deserve care and support.

Erika Anzoategui says Gascón’s dismissal of 60,000 cannabis-related cases is a pivotal step in criminal justice reform.

“This sends the right signal to the community that the nation was wrong in its ‘war on marijuana’ and that criminal convictions for marijuana offenses have a disproportionately negative impact on communities of color,” says Anzoategui. “We join DA Gascón in removing roadblocks to employment, housing, and education through the dismissal and sealing of these convictions.”