There’s good news for anyone with a marijuana conviction on their record in Los Angeles. Whether you were caught possessing a spliff or an ounce of weed, that conviction could be soon erased.
Ahead of an election, LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey has moved to dismiss 66,000 cannabis-related convictions here. It unwinds decades of drug prosecutions that have disproportionately targeted people of color.
It’s a big deal because a pot conviction can tarnish your record. “As a result of our actions, these convictions should no longer burden those who have struggled to find a job or a place to live because of their criminal record,” Lacey said.
How does it work?
The dismissals will be pretty much automatic. Lacey’s office worked with the tech nonprofit Code for America to use algorithms to find eligible drug convictions, some going back as far as 1961. The technology can scan the records of 10,000 people in “a matter of seconds,” said Evonne Silva, Code for America’s senior program director of criminal justice.
The LA County Public Defender’s office will be the point of contact for people once the court dismisses their marijuana conviction. You may not even know that a conviction has been erased.
The office has set up a public form for you to fill out if you have a conviction and want to see if it’s being dismissed. You can contact the office for help: 213-974-2811.
Eric Shevin, criminal defense attorney specializing in cannabis law, told KCRW’s Greater LA that making the dismissal automatic is key.
Previously, people had to do a lot of legwork to get their conviction tossed out -- if they even knew that was an option.
“But even if they knew, they would have to go to court and file a motion and the whole process is difficult,” Shevin said.
Who will get relief?
More than 50,000 people. Approximately 45% are Latino, 32% are black, 20% are white. “That’s the nature of marijuana criminalization throughout the whole country,” Shevin said.
The biggest change will come for people who fill out job applications and employment forms.
“You can check the box that you don’t have any prior convictions, also that you’ve never been arrested and convicted,” Shavin said. “It makes a giant difference and it’s long overdue.
KCRW’s Greater LA: LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey to expunge 66,000 weed convictions