A new California marijuana law has been applauded by advocates and Californian residents alike. The law is set to assist those that have previous marijuana convictions marring their records. The new law will help to expunge these records or, at the very least, re-examine the ruling and/or sentences.
Governor Jerry Brown signed this law into effect on Sunday night. The Assembly Bill 1793 was supported by the majority in the California State Legislature. Before this bill, it was an arduous process to go through and Californians that had marijuana convictions were desperately seeking a resolution to clean their records.
Rodney Holcombe, a representative from the Drug Policy Alliance based in New York, was quoted as saying that this new bill in the latest marijuana laws is transformative and “creates an opportunity for people to reclaim their lives.”
The Drug Policy Alliance is a national organization that focuses on actively supporting and human rights in drug policies.
The first state to pass such a legislature was Oregon. Oregon legalized recreational use of marijuana in 2014 and those who had previous marijuana-related convictions have the possibility to expunge their record or reduce the sentence, depending on the transgression. Other cities that have similar laws are San Francisco, Maryland, Colorado, Massachusetts, Seattle, and San Diego. It was only a matter of time for California to issue a state bill such as the recent Assembly Bill 1793.
California did, however, make history with the ruling in the latest marijuana laws. The Golden State is the first to have automated the legal system. This is bringing a sense of hope to many Californians that are looking at applying for student and housing loans or attempting to apply for employment but are stuck due to criminal records of minor marijuana charges. According to the Golden state’s Judicial Council, the new bill that automated the system is set to positively impact at least 200, 000 Californians.
Assemblymember Ron Bonta issued a scathing statement: “The failed war on drugs has, in so many ways, wreaked havoc, damage, pain, and anguish on so many Californians. This is where the government can step in and make it better.”
Ron Bonta is the assembly member who proposed the historical measure for California.
How Marijuana Convictions Affects Communities
According to a study performed by the Drug Policy Alliance in conjunction with the ACLU, the main demographics affected by cannabis convictions are persons of color. The study further stated that white demographics consume equal amounts of marijuana to persons of color. However, the results of marijuana convictions show a higher amount of convictions for persons of color, despite equal consumption.
The study suggested that law enforcement could be focused on these communities for marijuana convictions.
Some convictions are for extremely minor convictions; small possession infractions. These convictions mar the record and prevent the individual from attaining loans, acceptance from society, employment and/or other factors.
This new bill could assist those in leading a normal life, uninhibited by minor convictions. California’s famous proposition 64 was passed just over two years ago in 2014. The proposition legalized the recreational use of marijuana (for adults over the age of 21) and it also offered people the opportunity to erase prior marijuana convictions on their records. However, while the paper version sounded good, it was, in reality, a long and tedious process. Prior to the passing of Sunday’s bill, people with marijuana convictions needed to make a court petition. This was expensive and not everyone had the time nor the financial resources for the process.
What the New Law Means for the State and the People
With the new bill, the state will do much of this process that was lengthy and expensive for the public. Depending on the crime, the charges will be either removed completely or reduced.
How will the new Bill come into Effect?
The bill will come into full effect on the first day of the new year; January 2019. The Department of Justice is granted seven months from that date to examine existing cannabis-related cases. The Department will be required to contact county districts with the applicable petitions. Should the District Attorney see fit to challenge the new conviction, there is a time frame of one year in which to do so.
The cases which have already sent convicted persons to prison will be reviewed first. While California marijuana laws will continue to be adjusted and new regulations continue to be put into place, California looks set to become a leading state in the regulated marijuana market.
Both medical and recreational marijuana support has recently grown in America. By January 2018, a total of 30 states had legalized medicinal use of marijuana while states Utah and Missouri are preparing to vote on medical marijuana law. According to the Pew Research Center, 31% of Americans supported legalizing marijuana in 2000. That number has almost doubled to 61%.