A bill which compels prosecutors in California to erase or reduce past cannabis convictions was passed 22-8 in the state Legislature Wednesday, as reported by the Associated Press.
California law has allowed for the reduction or expunging of sentences since Proposition 64 was passed back in 2016, but few district attorney offices in the state took the initiative to start investigating and overturning their own convictions.
Some DA offices, for instance in San Diego and San Francisco, took upon themselves to look at these cases, but in large part it was up to individuals to pony up the cash to bring a case to their local prosecutor.
Most people who were eligible did not apply for an alteration to their sentences, either because the process was to expensive or they didn’t know that they were eligible.
The new bill will require that the state Department of Justice identify all eligible convictions and to forward them on to local prosecutors in a list which will be issued by July 1, 2019.
Cases eligible are non-violent, felony convictions or possession or distribution of less than an ounce between 1975 and 2016. An estimated 220,000 people could benefit from the bill.
However, prosecutors will still have some discretion in what sentences they choose to erase or reduce. They have until July 1, 2020 to challenge the alteration of some convictions based on the person’s criminal history.
The bill was introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta. State Sen. Scott Wiener, another supporter of the bill, said that it “creates a simpler pathway for Californians to turn the page.”
Photo via Flickr user Jeff Turner