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Starting Today, San Francisco Is Erasing Everybody's Misdemeanor Pot Convictions

Retroactivity is a powerful tool we don't use often enough.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon speaks at a news conference at City Hall in San Francisco. Photo credit: ROBERT GALBRAITH/REUTERS/NewscomSan Francisco District Attorney George Gascon speaks at a news conference at City Hall in San Francisco. Photo credit: ROBERT GALBRAITH/REUTERS/NewscomSan Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced today that his office will proactively expunge and seal the records of misdemeanor marijuana offenders, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The office will also resentence offenders who received a felony pot conviction.

Proposition 64, the 2016 referendum item that legalized recreational marijuana in California, allows pot offenders to petition for resentencing if their crime would have received a different penalty, or no penalty at all, under the new law.

Rather than wait for petitions, Gascón's office is searching for eligible cases.

"The district attorney said his office will dismiss and seal more than 3,000 misdemeanor marijuana convictions in San Francisco dating back to 1975," reports the Chronicle's Evan Sernoffsky. His office will also likely resentence "thousands of felony marijuana cases."

A member of the California Assembly has introduced a bill that would make all Prop. 64–related expungements and resentencings automatic.

Retroactivity is a powerful tool for righting drug war wrongs, but prosecutors are often opposed to the practice. In Colorado, another state that has legalized marijuana, Assistant Attorney General Kevin McReynolds has reportedly declared that there's "nothing irrational about holding someone accountable for a crime under the law in effect at the time." If voters had wanted legalization to apply retroactively, he said during a 2016 hearing on retroactivity, "all they had to do was say so."

At the federal level, the United States Sentencing Commission voted in 2014 to let tens of thousands of federal prisoners apply for retroactive sentence reductions after the commission changed the guidelines for drug trafficking.

But Congress failed to extend retroactivity to federal crack cocaine prisoners convicted before the Fair Sentencing Act passed in 2010. The new law substantially increased the amount of crack required to trigger a mandatory minimum sentence, and the failure to make it retroactive has left thousands of prisoners serving sentences that Congress has deemed excessive.

Photo Credit: ROBERT GALBRAITH/REUTERS/Newscom

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  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    "The district attorney said his office will dismiss and seal more than 3,000 misdemeanor marijuana convictions in San Francisco dating back to 1975,

    ?!! 3000 almost seems a bit light if we stretch back to '75. That's over 40 years of pot arrests.

  • BYODB||

    No kidding. 3000 seems like it should represent just one Thursday sometime in 1987.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I'm guessing misdemeanor pot arrests on SF must have been fairly rare. That's fewer than 70 a year.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Maybe it means that most of them were felony charges.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Assistant Attorney General Kevin McReynolds has reportedly declared that there's "nothing irrational about holding someone accountable for a crime under the law in effect at the time."

    "Wait, i meant to say 'rational.' There's nothing rational about continuing to treat someone like a criminal for something that isn't a crime anymore. Whew! What a fucked-up, evil position that would have been for my office to take!"

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    If you had interracial relations when anti-miscegenation laws were on the books, you are still just as criminal as you were then.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Hihn needs to watch his back.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    The important thing isn't right or wrong: it's whether you're respecting authority, peon.

  • timbo||

    Great move. Your move the rest of the country....

  • Zeb||

    This is something that seems to be missing from a lot of states' legalization legislation. So good on California. Also good for them for not instituting a DUI blood THC limit that isn't backed up by actual research and evidence. A lot of states seem to be trying to set it up so that anyone who smokes pot even once every week or two can be busted for DUI if a cop feels like it.

  • BYODB||

    Cops are looking out for their funding. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • Rhywun||

    They might want to retain enough of the elements of the pot-prohibition regime such that they won't have to re-tool when it's inevitably turned against tobacco. Think ahead, California.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Assistant Attorney General Kevin McReynolds has reportedly declared that there's "nothing irrational about holding someone accountable for a crime under the law in effect at the time." If voters had wanted legalization to apply retroactively, he said during a 2016 hearing on retroactivity, "all they had to do was say so."

    Pretty sure the only options on the ballot were "yea" or "nay", not "yea, but also let's change the wording of the law in the following ways..."

  • Zeb||

    Can you do write-ins on ballot initiatives?

  • AlmightyJB||

    Sounds great until you hire one because they passed a background check and they eat your face.

  • BYODB||

    So if you served your years-long sentence that is behind you today, I take it the State of California will monetarily reimburse you for those lost years of your life that can never be regained?

  • Zeb||

    I was just back to make a similar comment. At the very least a formal apology seems in order.

    I'm not holding my breath. It's probably a bit much to expect the state to admit that they have been brutally mistreating so many people for such a long time.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    That is NOT in the budget.

    It might minimize the effects of Three Strikes though.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Let's not get ahead of ourselves...

  • Brandybuck||

    Will they erase the convictions on Blacks too? Because in San Francisco it was never a crime to smoke pot while White.

  • Eman||

    y'know what else Mike Riggs thinks is a powerful tool that we should use more often?

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