On November 2016, California voters approved Proposition 64, making recreational marijuana legal throughout the state. Additionally, the measure also enabled those with past convictions related to cannabis to petition the courts to expunge their records.
Passed late last month by the state Senate, AB 1793 offers a structure to make such expungements happen. The bill requires the California Department of Justice to thoroughly search the state's criminal records and find past pot convictions that are eligible for expungement. A list of eligible individuals must be prepared by July 1, 2019. Furthermore, felony convictions related to cannabis can be downgraded to misdemeanors.
County prosecutors would then receive the information to evaluate and assess whether the conviction should be expunged or reduced. Prosecutors would have one year to challenge any action if it presents “an unreasonable risk of public safety.”
Lastly, the court must then either dismiss or reduce the convictions. Those currently serving jail/prison time for a marijuana-related offense are given priority.
According to estimates from 2006 to 2015 by the Drug Policy Alliance, approximately 500,000 people were arrested for felonies and misdemeanors that involve pot. As of last September, only around 5,000 of those individuals have petitioned to have their records expunged.
The state justice department claims that an estimated 218,000 convictions could be eligible for expungement or downgrade. There is no current timetable when Brown will sign the bill.