Pubdate: Fri, 02 Feb 2018
Source: Fresno Bee, The (CA)
Copyright: 2018 The Fresno Bee
Author: Alexei Koseff


When California voters legalized recreational weed in 2016, they made
the law retroactive, allowing residents to petition to overturn or
reduce old convictions for possession, cultivation and distribution of

But it is a difficult and expensive legal procedure, advocates say,
and many people are not even aware they are now eligible to clean up
their records. State courts received 4,885 petitions in the first 11
months after Proposition 64 passed, while the pro-legalization Drug
Policy Alliance found more than 460,000 arrests for marijuana offenses
between 2006 and 2015 alone.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta is hoping to simplify the process. The Alameda
Democrat's Assembly Bill 1793 would require courts to automatically
expunge the records of Californians convicted of offenses that are now
legal under Proposition 64, such as possessing up to an ounce of weed
and growing up to six plants for personal use, and to resentence those
individuals whose crimes, such as selling marijuana, were reduced from
felonies to misdemeanors.

"We're just saying, 'Move it along. Get it done,' " he said.

The legacy of racially unequal enforcement also motivated the measure.
California police arrested black people for marijuana offenses at more
than twice the rate of Latinos in 2015, according to the Drug Policy
Alliance, and more than triple the rate of white people.

Bonta said his bill could provide a fresh start, including better
employment and housing opportunities, to those who may not have the
resources to petition in court: "It tries to create some justice where
there was such injustice in the failed War on Drugs."

AB 1793 faces high hurdles; it requires a two-thirds vote, and could
face heavy opposition from the same law enforcement groups that
campaigned against Proposition 64. Associations representing police
chiefs and district attorneys said they have not yet taken a position
on the bill.

As it moves it way through the Legislature this session, however,
momentum may be building in local communities. San Francisco District
Attorney George Gascon announced this week that his office plans to
wipe more than 3,000 misdemeanor marijuana convictions dating back to
1975, and will review nearly 5,000 more felony cases for possible
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