The first week of Feb. 2018 marked a new development for marijuana users in California. The District Attorneys of San Francisco and San Diego announced that they will start the process of expunging or reducing cannabis-related conviction records with regards to the full legalization of the drug in California. Online marijuana can now be ordered without fear of being arrested. Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, however, takes a different approach to the situation. Lacey announced that she will not be actively involved in petitioning the courts. She advises petitioners not to “wait for her office to go through tens of thousands of case files.” San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos like Lacey also told the media that he will not be taking action concerning the development. The decision made by Lacey doesn’t however mean that marijuana cases in her county will not be reviewed. The statement only suggests that the petitioners will not be getting any help from the office of the Los Angeles DA.
POT CONVICTIONS IN LOS ANGELES
However, Angelinos can apply to have a present or former marijuana conviction resentenced, reclassified, or dismissed. Lacey is only saying that the individuals will have to go through the process on their own. Filing for the review of such cases takes time and money—hundreds of dollars in court and personal attorney fees and court sessions that span several months. Apparently, the DA’s office of Los Angeles is not ready to bear those costs. Over one million of such cases are in California, with a significant percentage of the figure are under the jurisdiction of Los Angeles. According to Southern California Public Radio, the LA office prosecuted more cannabis-related offenses than other jurisdictions.
The most affected people are the minority residents which are low-income earners who were arrested for visiting a marijuana dispensary or for being in possession of the drug
THE CONS OF POT CONVICTIONS
Having a marijuana record affects convicts in plenty ways. More than 90% of the people who couldn’t get decent jobs have one conviction record or the other. Having a past record which is marijuana-related makes an individual ineligible to benefit from certain social welfare packages in the country.
“Those records can make it harder for people to get a job or a loan to start up a business, obtain college scholarships, or even finding a place amongst the rest of the community.” LA Times.
In jurisdictions that offer marijuana offenders support for this redress, the people affected will not have to take any actions. Once their records are clear, they will be able to join the city’s workforce, acquire professional licenses, have access to loans, and secure decent accommodation.
RESIDENTS GET HELP WITH PETITIONS FROM SAN FRANCISCO AND SAN DIEGO DA OFFICES
However, some local governments recognize the difficulties people may face in saving money and time to start the process on their own and have decided to help expedite the process. San Francisco has confirmed that 8,000 cases of marijuana crimes and misdemeanors dating back to 1975 will be erased or reclassified, based on the new law. San Diego office also follows suit with action already taken on 700 cases; and another 4,000 cases under review according to the San Diego Union Tribune. In both counties, those with records will have them cleared without them taking any legal actions.
Although recreational use of marijuana has been legalized in California, cannabis-related offenses running to hundreds of thousands were committed prior to legalization.
Lacey’s position on pot cases may put the residents of the county at great disadvantage, considering the fact that Los Angeles relatively has the highest number of convictions which run into millions. The office of the DA estimates that the cost of helping past or present marijuana offenders would require a substantial amount of government resources. San Francisco and San Diego apparently, are the most active counties in the state as they set examples that lauds Prop. 64. According to San Diego District Attorney’s office: filing, review, and adjudication of cases can be done within a week. People seeking urgent relief for accommodation, employment, and other provisions made under the new law can get it done within 24 hours.
It is high time that California’s justice system went through a total overhaul. Like Los Angeles, San Bernardino office also announced that they would not attempt to reduce or clear convictions. Prosecutors in Orange and Riverside counties have effaced themselves from the matter, refusing to grant interviews even when asked. Prop. 64 passed, not only for the legalization of recreational marijuana, but also to address the unfair legal system in the state. The poor gets convicted and jailed mostly for marijuana offenses, which further devalues their social standing. The new law gives them a chance to belong once again, to a community of real people, and the Los Angeles government should be an active part of the process. Recreational marijuana is now legal in California. Continuing to punish prior offenders is cruel and unnecessary.