SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco's District Attorney says his office will toss out or reduce thousands of criminal convictions for marijuana dating back decades.
The move is allowed under the 2016 ballot measure that legalized recreational cannabis use in California.
Since 1975, nearly 8,000 people have been convicted of marijuana-related crimes in San Francisco. But, now that pot is legal in California, D.A. George Gascon says those convictions no longer make sense.
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"I believe that, long ago, we lost our ability to distinguish the dangerous from the nuisance and it has broken our pocketbooks and the fabric of many of our communities and we have not been any safer for it," Gascon said.
Gascon announced Wednesday that more than 3,000 misdemeanor pot convictions would be reversed and the defendants records expunged. And nearly 5,000 felonies would be re-examined to see if they could be thrown out.
Violent felonies would not be eligible.
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"People convicted of murder, rape, a lot of the serious offenses. We're also going to look at the totality of their history," Gason said.
Prop. 64, the voter approved initiative that legalized marijuana in California, allows defendants to petition to have their convictions thrown out. But, that requires a lawyer, time and money.
Gascon says his staff will handle everything. People won't have to lift a finger.
"I feel that this is a great step towards justice," said the NAACP's Reverend Amos Brown.
Brown, who's from the local NAACP chapter, says this will be especially welcome in San Francisco's communities of color. But, not everyone is happy.
Bishop Ron Allen is with the International Faith Based Coalition, who campaigned against the legalization of pot. He opposes the Gascon plan.
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"We want to see them in jail, educated, absolutely turned around. Please do not release them back into the community," Allen said.
Gascon says the misdemeanor cases should go pretty quickly. But, reviewing each felony conviction will take time
He doesn't have an estimate on how much it will cost.
Also, Gascon says some defendants will be able to use a new law, Senate Bill 393, to seal their marijuana arrest records as well.
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