The war on drugs is one of the most significant failures of American government in recent memory. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, the number of Americans arrested for possession has tripled since 1980. Shockingly, there were over 1.3 million arrests in 2015 for drug possession alone. Those arrested for possession charges (many of whom were only in possession of cannabis) are faced with prison sentences and criminal records that drastically alter their lives. In an effort to rectify some of the evils of the past, Los Angeles County will soon dismiss nearly 66,000 cannabis convictions.
How The Convictions Will Be Dismissed
The mass dismissal of convictions in Los Angeles County did not occur out of nowhere. This process began when California voters legalized the sale and use of recreational cannabis in November of 2016. The bill that made this possible, Proposition 64, also allows Californians with cannabis convictions to petition to have their criminal records expunged. Using the bill as a legal guideline, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced that she and her office will petition courts to dismiss cannabis convictions under a certain set of parameters.
According to CBS Los Angeles, those eligible for conviction dismissals are, “anyone 50 years of age or older, anyone who has not been convicted of a crime in the last 10 years, anyone with a conviction who successfully completed probation, and anyone with a conviction under the age of 21.”
To further ensure that past cannabis convictions will not negatively impact the future lives of those living in Los Angeles County, District Attorney Lacey announced that the county will seek to seal records that have been expunged. She said, “When you go to apply for a job, you go to apply for housing and your record comes up, even though we’ve expunged it, that may not give you help.”
Changing Lives and Creating Opportunities
The dismissal of 66,000 cannabis convictions is a positive move in a number of ways. Not only does it prove that local judicial systems are willing to push for progress but it will also drastically improve the lives of those having their records expunged and their families. In a news conference, District Attorney Lacey remarked, “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.”
Los Angeles County is incredibly progressive on the issue of cannabis legalization. The county recently became home to the first ever U.S. “cannabis cafe” in West Hollywood. Now, the county is taking a massive step towards righting the wrongs of the war on drugs. By dismissing over 66,000 cannabis related convictions the county is creating opportunities for those whose lives were put on hold for nothing other than possessing a plant that is now legal in a majority of U.S. states. The country as a whole needs to follow in the footsteps of Los Angeles County and continue to reevaluate the impact of the war on drugs on those arrested under its draconian policies.
Lane is based in Southern California and is a content curator for Medical Marijuana 411. He focuses his research into finding informative stories that can help medical marijuana patients better understand their diverse medicine.