Despite its history of flower children and Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco has always had a rather vigorous and overly enthusiastic law enforcement system which perhaps didn’t, um, work well with communities of color.
Some unfun facts: In 2010-2011, Blacks made up six percent of the population of San Francisco; during that same time, they made up 50 percent of cannabis-related arrests. In October 2018, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against San Francisco when it was found that its police officers were exclusively targeting the Black population in undercover drug operations.
As reported by High Times, a part of Proposition 64, California’s adult-use cannabis legalization ballot inititiave, requires cities to implement a “record change process” which “requires automation of this process across the state” for charge reductions or expungements. On Monday San Francisco became the state’s first county to announce they had achieved that benchmark.
San Francisco’s District Attorney announced that through a partnership with a Silicon Valley non-profit, Code for America, which began in May of 2018, they have been able to identify and begin action to reduce or expunge cannabis charges for more than 9,300 individuals.
That’s just in San Francisco. In Los Angeles, it’s estimated that since 1993, there are more than 40,000 felony convictions for cannabis that are now eligible for dismissal. Code for America has begun working with other cities and counties to find eligible cases.
Individual undertakings to address arrests are both expensive and time consuming, leaving many to forgo the efforts. In the three years since Prop 64 and the automation requirement passed, only 23 individuals had successfully addressed their cannabis cases through the court system.
It’s easily conceivable that more than 100,000 eligible felony convictions for cannabis could be overturned by the time all of the state is automated.
A felony conviction can severely impact or eliminate options for education, housing, and employment. The drawbacks that legalization programs have created are tempered by the overdue benefit of unburdening those who were unfairly targeted and prosecuted for their involvement with a plant