Thousands of people convicted of marijuana offenses in San Francisco going back to 1975 will have their convictions dismissed or reduced, says District Attorney George Gascón, the Wall Street Journal reports. It marks one of the most aggressive moves to wipe away old convictions in the face of new laws legalizing marijuana in California and other states. Gascón’s office will dismiss and seal 3,038 misdemeanor marijuana convictions, and review and possibly resentence 4,940 felonies, all of which were adjudicated before California voters legalized marijuana in 2016.
Under the state legalization measure, Californians can ask courts to get old marijuana possession and other convictions dismissed. Gascón said his office is taking the extra step of doing it for people in order to lift the burden of past convictions that can make it difficult for people to get jobs. “A criminal conviction can be a barrier to employment, housing and other benefits, so instead of waiting for the community to take action, we’re taking action for the community,” he said. Nine states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana use, and a debate has arisen over what to do with past pot convictions in these states. In Nevada, where recreational marijuana was legalized, Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed a bill that would have required certain offenses to be dismissed and sealed. In Colorado, prosecutors have raised concerns over bills making wiping away old pot convictions easier, said Arnold Hanuman of the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council.