The Los Angeles County District Attorney has announced the dismissal of 66,000 cannabis convictions.
The move marks a high-profile effort to reverse the negative effects of the drug war. In that capacity, the announcement is a clear success, but some have criticized its intentions for being geared more toward politics than social justice.
In the dismissal were 62,000 felony and 4,000 misdemeanor convictions in ten cities throughout the county, including cases dating back to 1961.
As a result of the move, 22,000 people no longer have felonies and 15,000 no longer have a criminal record at all, as reported by LA Times.
Among the 53,000 people who received dismissals, 45% are Latinx, 32% are black, and 20% are white. While only 6% of the population of California is black, African Americans account for nearly one in four people serving jail time exclusively for cannabis offenses.
“What this does is correct that inequity of the past,” said Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey. “It gives them a start, a new start.”
While many advocates of reversing drug war policies have applauded Lacey, some have also been critical of the move’s timing.
Lacey is currently seeking a third term as District Attorney in a hotly competitive race, with an upcoming primary election on March 3.
“She could’ve taken this action years ago,” said Eunisses Hernandez, L.A. campaign coordinator for JustLeadershipUSA, a group working to reduce mass incarceration.
Hernandez believes Lacey’s announcement was a publicity stunt to “bump herself up as a progressive” before the election.
Lacey has countered, saying that it took time now to get the county’s many city attorneys on board and only just received final approval.
Photo via Flickr/Frederick Denstedt