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New Marijuana Law in CA Makes Expungements Easier

Feb 13 2019, by Jessica McElfresh in Legal Blog, Marijuana Charges

A new marijuana law will make it easier for Californians with cannabis convictions to expunge their records and reduce their sentences. When your criminal record is expunged, it is no longer accessible to the public – only law enforcement agencies and courts can access it. Passed by a comfortable majority in the California legislature, Assembly Bill 1793 was signed into law in October by Governor Jerry Brown. Going into effect in 2019, the law will automatically remove some cannabis convictions from people’s records, and offer an early release from prison for people currently serving time for certain marijuana offenses.

California Is the First State to Offer Automatic Expungements of Cannabis Convictions

Under Proposition 64, the California law that legalized adult use cannabis, people with marijuana offenses on their records were allowed to petition their local court to request the expungement of their criminal record. While this was a step in the right direction, the expungement process proved too time consuming and costly for many former cannabis offenders. Some cities, such as San Francisco and San Diego, took matters into their own hands and began expunging some records unilaterally.

Under Assembly Bill 1793, the expungement process will be automatic across all California jurisdictions. Starting January 1, 2019, the Department of Justice will undertake a seven month-long review of all cannabis offenses in California. They will send petitions for eligible cases to the appropriate local prosecutor offices, who will have the chance to grant or challenge these petitions. The review process will prioritize cases where an individual is still serving time for an offense that is now legal.

This means that people currently serving time for marijuana possession and cultivation may soon be released from detention with a clean record. And some people with more serious convictions such as trafficking may see their convictions reduced. For example, a conviction for possession with intent to sell will automatically be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.

How Will California’s New Expungement Law Help?

Besides the obvious benefits of getting released early from jail, the automatic expungement and reduction of certain cannabis offenses is an incredible opportunity for anyone with these offenses on their criminal record. When your criminal record gets expunged, you will no longer have to face the collateral consequences of a cannabis conviction, which include:

  • Inability to apply for financial aid for college
  • Restricted employment opportunities
  • Difficulties in obtaining certain professional licenses
  • Issues in applying for housing assistance

And for people whose cannabis convictions will be reduced from felonies to misdemeanors, the benefits are significant too. Felons are barred from owning firearms for life, so having your conviction reduced means that you regain your second amendment rights.

According to a study by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Drug Policy Alliance, cannabis convictions have a disproportionate impact on communities of color. Although whites and blacks consume roughly the same amounts of cannabis, blacks are almost four times more likely to face criminal charges related to cannabis than whites. By streamlining the process of expunging these convictions, the california authorities will undo some of the damage done by the war on drugs.

According to the Judicial Council of California, around 218,000 California residents will benefit from Assembly Bill 1793 in some way. Had it not been for this law, too many people would have been unable to get their records expunged–even if they were otherwise qualified. Many people simply don’t have the time or money to attend hearings, pay court fees, and hire a lawyer to work on their expungement case. Now the process is automatic.

Call McElfresh Law Today

At McElfresh Law, we are passionate about defending the rights of Californians to enjoy cannabis in a responsible manner, and we strive to minimize the consequences for those who get caught on the wrong side of the law. If you or a family member has been charged or convicted of a cannabis crime, the assistance of a marijuana attorney can be invaluable. Call us today at (858) 756-7107 or use our online contact form for a free and confidential consultation.