Nearly 66,000 marijuana convictions in Los Angeles County will be dismissed, district attorney says

(CNN) — Nearly 66,000 marijuana convictions in Los Angeles County will be dismissed thanks in part to state laws that paved the way for the action, the county district attorney said Thursday.

The cases include 62,000 felony convictions for cases — including those for marijuana sales and cultivation — dating back to 1961, and about 4,000 misdemeanor possession cases, District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s office said.

“The dismissal of tens of thousands of old cannabis-related convictions in Los Angeles County will bring much-needed relief to communities of color that disproportionately suffered the unjust consequences of our nation’s drug laws,” Lacey said in a news release.

“I am privileged to be part of a system dedicated to finding innovative solutions and implementing meaningful criminal justice reform that gives all people the support they need to build the life they deserve,” she said.

The 66,000 dismissals mean conviction relief for about 53,000 people. About 45% are Latino; 32% are black; and 20% are white, Lacey’s office said.

In November 2016, California voters OK’d the legalization of recreational marijuana by approving Proposition 64. The proposition’s passage also allows people to petition the judicial system to have their old pot convictions expunged.

In 2018, the state Legislature passed AB 1793, which required the state Department of Justice to scour California’s crime records and find past cannabis convictions that are eligible to be expunged or downgraded to misdemeanors — generally, convictions for activities that would no longer be crimes under Proposition 64.

The bill gives county prosecutors until this July to review the list and decide which dismissals would be appropriate.

The state Department of Justice estimated in 2018 that more than 218,000 convictions statewide could be eligible for relief.

Lacey’s office said it worked with Clear My Record, a service that helps people expunge nonviolent marijuana convictions, to evaluate records. The service is offered by the nonprofit Code for America.

Including the Los Angeles County cases, Clear My Record has helped prosecutors dismiss about 85,000 marijuana convictions across the state, Code for America senior criminal justice program director Evonne Silva said.

“This is a clear demonstration that automatic record clearance is possible at scale and can help to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs,” Silva said.

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