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DA working to clear cannabis convictions
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Now that cannabis is legal in California, what happens to the records of the thousands of people still marred by a simple possession conviction in the past?

If you’re in San Joaquin County, they may just go away. 

On Monday, the offices of San Joaquin County’s Public Defender and District Attorney joined with the District Attorney of Los Angeles County to announce a partnership with non-profit Code for America that could end up automatically clearing up to 50,000 eligible convictions under Proposition 64 – the law passed by voters in 2016 that decriminalized the cultivation, possession, and personal use of cannabis and cannabis products in The Golden State. 

Both Los Angeles and San Joaquin Counties are among the first in the state to part in the non-profit’s pilot program that “proactively identifies convictions that qualify for resentencing or dismissal under the voter-approved initiative in November 2016,” according to a release announcing the new program. 

“Since the passage of Propositions 47 and 64, the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office, in partnership with the Public Defender’s Office and the Superior Court, have worked collaboratively to successfully implement the law in a timely and efficient manner,” said San Joaquin County Public Defender Miriam Lyell in joint statement with District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar. “We have seen firsthand the capabilities of the Clear My Record tool to facilitate the record clearing process and provide a much-needed service to our community, restoring families along with tremendous cost savings to the People of the State of California. 

“This powerful tool represents the best of public-private partnerships: harnessing the power of technology to create new pathways of opportunity for members of our community with convictions.”

The partnership will take San Joaquin County’s efforts a step further to clear eligible cases a step further – a collaborative effort between the California Department of Justice, the DA’s office, the Public Defender’s office, and The Superior Court is already underway – by utilizing the state-of-the-art system to automatically identify the cases and take the necessary legal steps of removing them from people’s records. 

According to the release, there are believed to be more than 4,000 convictions in San Joaquin County alone that are eligible for removal. 

Monday’s announcement came just a month after the City and County of San Francisco announced that it had used the Clear My Record technology developed by Code for America to dismiss and seal more than 8,000 cannabis convictions. 

The state will have until July of next year to execute the key elements of Assembly Bill 1793, which opened the door for convictions that not be chargeable under Proposition 64 to be redesignated, recalled, or dismissed and sealed. 

Both San Joaquin and Los Angeles Counties have been working with Code for America since July of 2018 to help develop the program – which removes the need for those with prior convictions to petition, and just automatically initiates the process to clear as many prior convictions as possible before the deadline next year. 

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.