Amidst the legalization of recreational marijuana, San Francisco has announced that it will be reversing convictions for misdemeanor possessions of the drug.
This means that those who have been convicted have the opportunity for their convictions to be expunged, but this requires an attorney. There are over 4,000 convictions that will be looked into and over 3,000 misdemeanors. San Francisco District Attorney, George Gascón will be reviewing and resentencing these cases.
Discussion around the disproportionate rates of conviction for marijuana amongst Black and white populations, despite their almost equal usage, is another reason for the need for expungement. A report earlier this year found that 77 percent of people arrested in 2015 for weed-related crimes in Oakland were Black. Writer and analyst for Cannabusiness Law in San Francisco, Ryan Reaves says that, “for communities impacted by the War on Drugs, especially communities of color, this action by the SF District Attorney can be used to pressure other cities or counties to follow suit.”
Despite this, change at a nationwide or even statewide level is not expected in the near future. Although the Bay Area has a positive relationship with marijuana, “many cities and counties across the state are actively banning commercial cannabis activities and conducting raids on ‘non-compliant’ commercial cannabis businesses,” Reaves said.
While this is good news, the process for individuals to overturn their convictions requires multiple steps. “Bigelow & Couzens explain the resentencing process for those currently serving sentences in four-parts ‘(1) File a petition for resentencing (2) a screening for eligibility is conducted (3) a qualification hearing where the merits of the petition are considered, and, if appropriate, (4) a resentencing of the crime’ (2016, 10),” Reaves said.
“And prosecutors in San Francisco and San Diego have been more proactive, with both cities planning to automatically dismiss misdemeanor convictions and to reduce felony convictions to misdemeanors,” The New York Times reported.
Despite what may be a lengthy process this is good news for those who have been convicted of possession of a substance that is now legal for recreational use. “If you have a prior conviction related to cannabis and you think you may be eligible for expungement, you should contact an attorney right away if you are able,” Reaves said.