San Francisco Takes Back Cannabis Convictions


George Gasćon.
  • George Gasćon.
Now that cannabis is legal in California, state district attorneys are doing some serious reflection on the enforcement of drug laws. For decades, Californians were arrested, harassed, and imprisoned for the possession and use of a drug that is now legal and expected to generate thousands of jobs and billions in tax revenue for the Golden State.

So, it's only natural, or just, some might say, to reevaluate decades of cannabis convictions. San Francisco took the lead on this issue this week when District Attorney George Gasćon announced that starting immediately all cannabis related arrests and misdemeanor convictions dating back to 1975 will be wiped clean.

The action will expunge thousands of misdemeanors and take another look at felony convictions for possible charge reductions. Gasćon's action is founded on a little-known provision in the California law that allows the expungement of some cannabis crimes.

"We want to address the wrongs that were caused by the failures of the war on drugs for many years in this country and begin to fix some of the harm that was done not only to the entire nation but specifically to communities of color," Gascón said at a news conference Wednesday.

Gasćon estimated that 3,000 misdemeanors will be dismissed automatically, and as many as 5,000 felonies will be reviewed for possible charge reductions.

The Drug Policy Alliance claims there have been 500,000 cannabis arrests in California over the past 10 years and that up to a million people have convictions worthy of review.