California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a bulletin to prosecutors on Wednesday, December 15, urging them to provide relief to those still living under the weight of a past cannabis conviction who could have had their records cleared in the years following the passage of Proposition 64. 

During the harvest of 2018, AB 1793 passed. The bill essentially put it on the state’s Department of Justice to identify Californians eligible to obtain the relief they are entitled to under the law. The data needed to be in by July of 2019, but the pace of things was a lot faster than that.

In the process of collecting the data, the DOJ reviewed all cases to determine whether to challenge the resentencing, dismissal and sealing, or redesignation. The bill also authorized prosecutors lower on the DOJ pyramid to challenge any of that if they felt a person did not meet the eligibility requirements or presents an unreasonable risk to public safety. 

The prosecutors got the lists. Nevertheless, there are still many people in the state’s database that have received no aid in lifting the burdens of being a part of the criminal justice system from their lives.

This led to Bonta calling on counties to prioritize reviewing these cases and promptly notify the DOJ of the resentencing.  

“As the lead author of AB 1793 in the Assembly, it is now my privilege and honor to see its promise through as California’s Attorney General,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Since this law went into effect, tens of thousands of Californians have been able to turn the page and make a fresh start – but unfortunately there are still some who are waiting for relief. I urge counties to prioritize processing their records so that these Californians can finally get the relief they deserve. My team is available as a resource, and we won’t stop working until every Californian eligible for relief under AB 1793 is experiencing the law’s intended benefits.” 

This is another example of Bonta, now the state’s top cop, continuing one of his personal fights from the Assembly. He was the original author of AB 1793 that ordered the DOJ to make the relief-eligible lists in the first place. This is essentially Bonta shaking the tree on his subordinates to get the ball rolling. 

These convictions that remain are a result of municipalities and prosecutors not putting their best foot forward to help people now five years removed from the passage of Prop. 64. With the current state of the regulated market driving producers back to the underground economy to survive taxes and licensing fees, the criminal justice promises of the the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act are all the more important. 

Are there positives to take away? Sure. The felony arrest rate went from 14,000 to 1,100 following the implementation of Prop. 64.

But what about all the people that had their lives ruined over a sack of weed before that? Sure, places like Los Angeles cleared 60,000 records in September alone and groups like Code for America have helped take the lead, but there is still a lot of work to be done. And as we whittle down that massive number of people who could be helped, the remaining will be more and more complex.

Should someone not have their record cleared because it couldn’t be done with the flick of a switch with thousands of others? It doesn’t sound like there is a lot of equity in the criminal justice system for that person if that were the case. 

But well done by Attorney General Bonta for his continued efforts to help these people. 

 

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