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LA County DA Dismisses Nearly 30,000 Pot Cases

The Los Angeles County DA’s office is in the process of dismissing about 60,000 marijuana convictions

LA County Department of Health

The nation’s largest prosecutor’s office, in LA County, is in the process of dismissing about 60,000 marijuana convictions, reports the Los Angeles Times.

It’s the latest step to undo what some reform advocates consider the damage caused by marijuana enforcement carried out before Californians voted to legalize Cannabis. Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced the plan on Monday. 

Under prior DA Jackie Lacey, the office moved last year to dump 66,000 marijuana convictions. Those convictions took place before voters passed Proposition 64, the state law legalizing adult Cannabis use. But that list used information collected by The California Department of Justice. Gascón said his office was able to identify tens of thousands more eligible cases by combing LA County court records.

‘The Possibility of a Better Future’ In LA County

“Dismissing these convictions means the possibility of a better future to thousands of disenfranchised people who are receiving this long-needed relief,” Gascón said. “It clears the path for them to find jobs, housing and other services that previously were denied to them because of unjust Cannabis laws.”

Gascón has long supported reversing the racially disparate and overly punitive impacts of the War On Drugs. While serving as San Francisco’s top prosecutor, he sought dismissal of nearly 9,000 felony and misdemeanor Cannabis convictions processed prior to the passage of Prop 64.

About 20,000 convictions were felony-level possession or cultivation cases, according to Jean Guccione of the LA County DA’s office. The rest were misdemeanors, filed in jurisdictions without their own city attorney’s offices.

It wasn’t clear how far back the case review went. But while in San Francisco, Gascón sought to overturn cases dating all the way back to the mid-1970s.

‘We Want Basically To Erase The Harm’

Felicia Carbajal of LA-based The Social Impact Center, said her organization first helped identify the discrepancy in LA County’s approach. Carbajal noted the potential problem with relying solely on CALDOJ records to identify cases that would qualify for relief. 

Carbajal said she contacted Lacey’s staff abut the problem last year, but received no reply. Lacey couldn’t be immediately reached for comment Monday.

Gascón said he also plans for prosecutors to work with the public defender’s office to seek a “blanket” court order. That would seal records of the marijuana convictions for the thousands of defendants impacted by the move. 

“Over 100,000 Angelenos have been impacted by this war on marijuana after the voters told us they overwhelmingly wanted to stop this … we want to basically erase the harm,” he said.