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California Clears Marijuana Conviction Records

Californians with a criminal record stemming from a marijuana conviction will now have an opportunity to get their lives back on track. The state recently put a new law on the books that will provide marijuana offenders with a simpler means to wipe their records clean or get their sentences drastically reduced. It is a policy that advocates are calling “transformative,” as it will give hundreds of thousands of people hope for a better future.

On Sunday, Governor Jerry Brown signed the proposal (Assembly Bill 1793) that made this happen. It is a measure that picks up where the state’s marijuana legalization initiative left off by giving people convicted of marijuana crimes the ability to petition the courts and have their misdemeanors expunged and their felonies reduced, according to the Los Angeles Times. The new law streamlines the process and makes it easier for people to get out from under this particular drug-related conviction.

“AB 1793 will bring people closer to realizing their existing rights by creating a simpler pathway for Californians to turn the page and make a fresh start,” Assemblyman Rob Bonta said in a statement. “Long after paying their debt to society, people shouldn’t continue to face the collateral consequences, like being denied a job or housing, because they have an outdated conviction on their records.”

Although a handful of states presently have an arrangement in place that allows marijuana convicts to have their records wiped clean, California is the first state to automate a system dedicated to helping these people get it done.

The new law requires the state Justice Department identify all of the marijuana offenders who might qualify for expungement and put that information into the hands of local district attorneys by the summer of 2019. From there, prosecutors can review each case and have the courts modify the records. An estimated 218,000 residents could benefit from this law.

When California approved Proposition 64, legalizing marijuana for recreational use, the law came with an expungement clause. But many have argued that the act, how it was designed, was difficult, time-consuming and costly to navigate correctly. Moreover, it has only been a convenient option for those who can afford an attorney to see it through.

“It was so inaccessible for a variety of reasons,” Rodney Holcombe of the Drug Policy Alliance told USA Today. “This (new law) will empower people. My heart goes out to people who have had to navigate this process on their own. It’s confusing, expensive and tiring.”

Governor Brown, however, did not offer the same consideration when it comes to allowing sick children to bring medical marijuana on school campuses. He argued the language was too broad and that it might contribute to exposing minors to marijuana.

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