California lawmakers pass measure to erase pot-related convictions

The measure mirrors an initiative started by Yolo County earlier this year to erase old pot convictions after California voters legalized marijuana.
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Assembly Bill 1793, which now heads to the governor’s desk for signing, would require the state’s Department of Justice to compile a list of cases that would be eligible for either a complete erasure of the conviction or a reduction in sentencing. The initiative is similar to one created by Yolo County earlier this year in which District Attorney Jeff Reisig and the public defender’s office agreed to review hundreds of cases with pot-related convictions after voters passed Proposition 64, which decriminalized recreational use of pot and lessened certain other pot-related offenses. In an interview published by the Express this week, Reisig said he opposed Prop 64 because of concerns that it could create a pathway that would allow children to have greater access to the drug. But Reisig also said he never personally opposed adults using marijuana and that his office didn’t prosecute people who possessed less than an ounce of the drug. In March, Reisig told Sacramento news station KCRA-TV that his office had identified more than 700 cases from as far back as 2009 that could be eligible for expungement or reduction. Cases before 2009 weren’t reviewed because of issues obtaining data on those cases, but people who feel their convictions may be eligible for review can reach out to his office or the public defender’s office for consideration without having to go back to court, he said. Under AB 1793, the state’s DOJ would review its own criminal database for cases that are eligible for reduction or expungement, which could unearth convictions in Yolo County where individuals were sentenced before 2009. The state DOJ says there could be as many as 220,000 cases that are eligible for either a reduction or complete erasure of a conviction. The measure, if signed by the governor, would require the state DOJ to compile the list by July of next year. Prosecutors would then have an additional year to decide which cases they’d like to challenge because the case at issue either doesn’t meet eligibility requirements or centers on an individual who poses “an unreasonable risk to public safety.” The public defender’s office in each county will also be notified of eligible cases, and the measure requires public defenders to notify individuals of their eligibility status.]]>

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