The cannabis legalization movement is sweeping across the nation state by state and has become a mainstream national issue as well. Legalizing and regulating cannabis ends harmful arrests, creates jobs and generates revenue for state coffers. However, after ending criminal penalties there is a lot of work to be done for both businesses and the cannabis communities. One thing desperately needed for so many people is the expungement of old criminal offenses.
Thankfully, many places are moving forward with expungement laws and policies. Los Angeles County is the latest locality to expunge old cannabis convictions as Leafly reports:
Los Angeles County district attorney Jackie Lacey announced Thursday the filing of a motion to expunge 66,000 marijuana convictions dating back to 1961—including 62,000 felony convictions and 4,000 misdemeanors. A superior court judge signed the order Tuesday.
According to reports, Lacey’s motion removes felonies from the records of 22,000 people. About 15,000 individuals now no longer have a criminal record at all. Cannabis convictions can alter life trajectories—narrowing education, housing, and employment options for decades after something as little as getting busted for a joint.
L.A. County cannabis prohibition took a notorious toll on minority communities located there. While cannabis use rates are roughly similar across racial and ethnic groups, drug enforcement focused on high-drug crime minority neighborhoods, resulting in arrest disparities. Los Angeles County is 44.6% Latino, 48.7% white, and 11% Black. Lacey’s motion affects 53,000 people, 32% Black, 45% Latino and 20% are white.
Even in places that have passed expungement laws, like Oregon, the process is too complicated, cumbersome and expensive for many. Providing for expungement is a better policy than not allowing it, but we really need to pass automatic expungement laws to eliminate barriers to clearing this old, unfair convictions. Kudos to L.A. County DA Jackie Lacy and others that are helping fix the ills created by the harmful and failed War on Cannabis.