Long Overdue Legal Relief on the Way to Californians Convicted for Cannabis

Updated: Aug 24, 2018

In some huge news from the California state capital, on Wednesday lawmakers there approved a proposed bill that would force state prosecutors to erase or reduce tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of cannabis-related criminal convictions dating all the way back to 1972.

The bill passed easily through the state Senate with a bipartisan vote of 22-8 and now goes to Governor Brown’s desk for one last signature.

The California state Department of Justice estimates that as many as 220,000 Cali residents with a lingering cannabis conviction will then be eligible to have their record cleared of that conviction in a move that many consider to be long overdue.

Even before states like California, Colorado, Washington, and a growing list of others legalized the recreational use of weed, many of them had followed Cali’s lead of establishing highly successful medical marijuana programs. Those MMJ programs saw so many people legally (or quasi-legally) getting paid off of the very same plant that had ruined so many other people’s lives that it begged the questions: how can that be fair and what are we going to do about it?

Well, for all of its flaws, and there were many from its very introduction, Proposition 64 in California had a few potential bright spots. One of which was some language, vague as it was, about this very subject.

Prop 64 eliminated certain pot-related crimes from the police playbook altogether and was supposed to work retroactively – meaning if you had been busted for one of those crimes before 2016 when Prop 64 was voted in, you could be eligible to have your criminal record cleaned up.

The problem has been that there was no mechanism for those with cannabis convictions to easily or affordably work the legal system enough to flex these new rules IF they even knew of the new rules.

This week’s bill, introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta who represents parts of Oakland, California, will force the state’s Dept. of Justice to review ALL cannabis cases dated between 1972 and 2016 and create a list of those potentially eligible for reduction or outright deletion.

The DOJ has until July 1st of next year to compile that list which could contain nearly a quarter million names.

Then, state prosecutors will be given a full year – until July 2020 – to review and challenge any names on the list that they choose to. Odds are, that will be a short fight as the state does not have the resources or the will to keep locking people up over dimebags.

Having a misdemeanor cannabis conviction can be life-altering, and never in a good way. It can affect your housing situation, your employment situation, your benefits if you are a veteran or on any sort of public assistance, and more. This bill, once signed by Gov. Brown, will provide relief for these folks.

Non-violent, felony convictions for possession or distribution of under an ounce of cannabis are eligible for reductions to misdemeanors, which can also vastly improve the quality of life of anyone saddled with a bogus weed felony. For example, those eligible for a reduction on their record could then potentially be eligible to legally own a firearm, or vote in certain elections.

The importance of this new law cannot be overstated!


We must always remember: Decriminalization is not legalization, and even legalization is dreadfully incomplete if we leave behind the convicted weed warriors who blazed the path that we are all following today.

WHAT NEXT? Clearly, this is going to be a long, drawn-out bureaucratic process that will not have many answers until the summer of 2020. Until then, follow this story as closely as you can if you feel that you or a loved one could be impacted by the inevitable results. As the story develops, Disorderly Conduction will be there to keep you up to date.

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