What to Do If You Have a Marijuana Conviction in California

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on January 05, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

California legalized it. And that's all well and good for budding weed entrepreneurs in the Golden State, but what about the half-million people arrested on marijuana-related offenses over the past decade? Many, if not all of those arrestees have criminal charges on their record, and some may still be incarcerated for doing something that is now legal.

The good news is that legalization has also paved for way for Californians convicted of marijuana crimes to have their criminal records cleared or the charges or sentences reduced. Here's how:

Un-Harsh My Mellow, Bro

"We worked to help create a legalized and regulated process for legal marijuana," Eunisses Hernandez, a policy coordinator at the Drug Policy Alliance told the Washington Post, "but we also wanted to make sure we could help -- some way, somehow -- repair the damages of marijuana prohibition." And a disproportionate amount of those damaged were African-Americans: 77% of people arrested in 2015 for marijuana crimes in Oakland were black, according to a city report.

"Certain communities have been policed for the same activities," said Darlene Flynn of Oakland's Department of Race and Equity, "because we know that white people use drugs and sell drugs at approximately the same rate that black and brown people do, but they don't get jailed at the same rate." That's why Oakland's Equity Cannabis Permit Program will give priority to people who have been arrested and convicted for weed-related crimes after medical marijuana became legal in the state.

Weed Removal

In order to remove or change marijuana charges on your record, though, you do need to file a petition with the court. At least 4,800 people had already filed petitions to have their sentences reduced or thrown out since November 2016. While some old convictions will be automatically reclassified under the new law (convictions for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana will be tossed, since that's now legal, for example), prosecutors may have some discretion when it comes to reducing more serious charges.

If you want help clearing your cannabis conviction, contact a local criminal attorney.

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