L.A. County To Toss 60,000 Convictions

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“Dismissing these convictions means the possibility of a better future to thousands of disenfranchised people,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said. Photo: George Gascón website/uncredited

Approximately 60,000 cannabis convictions will be dismissed and sealed, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced Monday, saying his office aimed to “reverse the injustices of drug laws.”

“Dismissing these convictions means the possibility of a better future to thousands of disenfranchised people who are receiving this long-needed relief. It clears the path for them to find jobs, housing and other services that previously were denied to them because of unjust cannabis laws,” Gascón said in a statement.

This initiative is part of a law, Assembly Bill 1793, that was passed in 2018 after the state legalized recreational marijuana. The bill directed prosecutors to proactively search state Department of Justice data to identify past convictions that are now eligible for recall, dismissal, sealing or redesignation.

Gascón’s action adds to the 66,000 marijuana convictions the county dismissed in 2020. Those earlier dismissals had applied to all convictions prior to California’s passage of Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana use in the state, but the District Attorney’s office said that tens of thousands additional cases were identified by searching L.A. County court records.

When Los Angeles County also examined its own records, it uncovered the approximately 58,000 felony and misdemeanor cases from the last 30 years that are now being dismissed in 2021. Gascón also said the cases would be sealed so that people with prior convictions can more easily get a job, earn an education, or change their immigration status.

Lynne Lyman, former director of the Drug Policy Alliance, applauded the move, giving credit to Proposition 64, which was co-authored by Gascón in 2016, and pointing out how marijuana laws disproportionately affect people of color.

“This is the unfinished work of Proposition 64,” Lyman said. “We created the opportunity for old cannabis convictions to be cleared, but it was up to local district attorneys to actually make it happen. Proposition 64 was always about more than legal weed, it was an intentional effort to repair the past harms of the war on drugs and cannabis prohibition, which disproportionately targeted people of color. I applaud District Attorney Gascón for taking this action to help nearly 60,000 Angelenos have their records fully sealed.”