Advocates for criminal justice reform secured a big win this week: Los Angeles County announced it would dismiss nearly 66,000 marijuana-related convictions—some of which date back to 1961. According to the Los Angeles Times, The move was confirmed Thursday by county District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who underscored the way drug war enforcement disproportionately affected people of color.
"The dismissal of tens of thousands of old cannabis-related convictions in Los Angeles County will bring much-needed relief to communities of color that disproportionately suffered the unjust consequences of our nation’s drug laws," Lacey said in a press release. "I am privileged to be part of a system dedicated to finding innovative solutions and implementing meaningful criminal justice reform that gives all people the support they need to build the life they deserve."
According to the presser, the order will toss out 62,000 felony convictions—most of which were for marijuana sales and cultivation—as well as nearly 4,000 misdemeanor possession cases across 10 county cities: L.A., Long Beach, Torrance, Pasadena, Inglewood, Burbank, Santa Monica, Hawthorne, Redondo Beach, and Hermosa Beach.
The dismissals will also result in conviction relief for approximately 53,000 people, 45 percent of whom are Latino, 32 percent are black, 20 percent are white, and three percent are other or unknown, the county reports.
The announcement was made in partnership with the non-profit group Code for America, which created an algorithm to identify convictions that were eligible for relief under Proposition 64, which legalized legalized possession and the purchase of marijuana within the state.
"Today’s action marks the completion of our California Clear My Record pilot, through which we will have helped to dismiss and seal more than 85,000 marijuana convictions across the state," Evonne Silva, Code for America's Senior Program Director of Criminal Justice, said in the press release. "This is a clear demonstration that automatic record clearance is possible at scale and can help to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs. Looking forward, Code for America stands at the ready to help all California counties provide this much needed relief ..."
Information for all eligible cases must be sent to county prosecutors by July 1; prosecutors will then review each case and determine whether the proposed dismissal or resentencing should be challenged.