San Francisco has the clarity that the rest of the country is lacking about what it means to legalize adult-use marijuana. The district attorney for San Francisco stated yesterday that they will be dismissing over 3,000 marijuana convictions for misdemeanor offenses.
California started selling legal adult-use marijuana on January 1st of this year and has been a general advocate for marijuana legalization for decades. Marijuana advocates have been loud about granting clemency for anyone with a non-violent marijuana conviction and having convictions removed from their records, especially in states that have legalized recreational marijuana.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said Wednesday that his office will dismiss and seal 3,038 misdemeanor convictions dating back before the state’s legalization of marijuana went into effect, with no action necessary from those who were convicted.
Prosecutors will also review up to 4,940 felony convictions and consider reducing them to misdemeanors.
“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 added.
Gascón’s office also noted racial discrepancies in marijuana arrests and sentencing. In 2000, African-Americans were 7.8 percent of San Francisco’s population but comprised 41 percent of marijuana arrests. By 2010 and 2011, African-Americans made up about half of the marijuana-related arrests, yet represented only 6 percent of the city’s population, according to the district attorney’s office.
In his statement, Gascón said San Francisco was “taking the lead to undo the damage that this country’s disastrous, failed drug war has had on our nation and on communities of color in particular.”
While arrests for marijuana possession have declined substantially, there are still large racial disparities between African-American arrests versus white people that possess cannabis. Will the rest of California’s populous cities and counties follow San Francisco’s example by throwing out marijuana convictions?
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