In an extraordinary rebuke to Jeff Sessions’ barbaric Marijuana policy, the city of San Francisco has cleared all misdemeanor marijuana convictions dating back to 1975, according to a report from the San Francisco Chronicle. A total of 3,038 convictions will be removed from criminal records in one fell swoop, which sets a new precedent in retroactive drug decriminalization.
At least nine states have passed legislation addressing record expungement following legalization. But San Francisco is the first city to wipe all of them out at once without the need for costly and time-consuming petitioning.
The city also plans to reevaluate the nearly 5,000 felony marijuana cases for possible sentence reductions, according to the report.
More cities and states should follow their lead. This is the right way to rebuild trust and move forward, and it flies in the face of the regressive maneuvers of the Jeff Sessions’ DOJ.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón fully acknowledges the racially-motivated tactics employed in the name of the war on drugs, and how those tactics have decimated families and communities of color. In a statement, Gascón commented on the disproportionate arrests and sentences saying:
“As indicated by the disparities in San Francisco arrest and booking rates, the War on Drugs has produced disparate arrest rates across racial groups. This is despite the fact that multiple studies have found that rates of drug use and drug sales are commensurate across racial lines. In particular, African American and Latino communities interact with the criminal justice system, including via arrests, bookings, and incarceration, at a rate far higher than their Caucasian counterparts.”
San Francisco legalized marijuana in 2016 through the passage of Proposition 64, and allowed individuals with misdemeanor marijuana convictions to petition the court in order to clear their records. But, as with most elements of the U.S. criminal justice system, the process was long and expensive.
So, they just decided to wipe everyone’s low-level marijuana convictions.
Simply legalizing marijuana does absolutely nothing for the thousands of people in jail for marijuana, or for those struggling to find work due to their marijuana-related criminal record. Offering a chance to petition the court to expunge a record is unnecessarily arduous.
Clear the records and progress from there. It’s simpler, it requires far less administrative hours; it’s the most efficient way of tackling this issue.