San Francisco to clear thousands of marijuana convictions dating back to 1975

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San Francisco is set to wipe thousands of marijuana convictions off the books, dating all the way back to 1975.

The city will retroactively apply current law to those cases District Attorney George Gascón said Wednesday. Those convictions will be expunged or reduced to misdemeanors.

Recreational marijuana was made legal this year. In 2016, voters chose to legalize medical marijuana.

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San Francisco prosecutors will review and wipe out convictions en masse, as leaving it up to each individual to appeal their case themselves would be costly and time consuming.

Gascón said his office will dismiss and seal more than 3,000 misdemeanor marijuana convictions and re-sentence nearly 5,000 felony marijuana cases if necessary, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

“Instead of waiting for people to petition — for the community to come out — we have decided that we will do so ourselves,” Gascón said. “We believe it is the right thing to do. We believe it is the just thing to do.”

Misdemeanor cases will be handled first. Those with felony marijuana convictions that are tied to other crimes might not be eligible to have their cases expunged.

“It’s evolving,” he said. “It will be a lot of clerical work, and we will evaluate as we start reviewing felonies.”

Gascón hopes the decision sets a precedent.

“We’re hoping what we are doing here will not only benefit San Francisco,” the district attorney said. “We’re hoping other elected officials around the state will say this is the right thing to do.”

A bill was introduced last month in the California Assembly that would “allow automatic expungement or reduction of a prior cannabis conviction” statewide.

Dennis Peron, a gay rights activist who was a pioneer in recognizing and advocating for the health benefits of marijuana during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis in San Francisco and who was fundamental in getting medical marijuana passed, died recently at the age of 71.

Doubtless he would be glad to see this change take place, which is in no small part due to his life’s work.

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