Marijuana laws are softening around the country, but the thaw hasn’t extended to jails, prisons, and parole offices where drug offenders are still paying the price of dealing and possessing weed. While entrepreneurs have profited from pot sales, adults have struggled to support their families with felony records, and juveniles have gotten caught up in the school-to-prison pipeline. But a new California law could ameliorate some of that injustice by allowing former drug convicts, including felons, the opportunity to expunge their records.
“We worked to help create a legalized and regulated process for legal marijuana, but we also wanted to make sure we could help – some way, somehow – repair the damages of marijuana prohibition,” explained Drug Policy Alliance coordinator Eunisses Hernandez. Those damages are huge. Up to a million people in California have marijuana-related convictions that could be up for review under the new law. Of course, there’s no tap of the magic wand to instantly wipe weed convictions off every record. It’s up to individuals to take the initiative to get their legal history sorted, and some cases will be more complicated than others.
There also hasn’t been much publicity about this aspect of Cali’s legalization, so there are plenty of people who don’t know yet about the possibility of a clean start. “One of the projects we’re working on this year is to notify people that this is an option,” said defense lawyer Bruce Margolin of Los Angeles. “It’s a viable thing to do, obviously, because people are suffering with these felony convictions in so many aspects of their life.” Another impediment is getting to law offices and court houses to get the ball rolling on this process, which can be time consuming if you’re limited to public transportation.
Still, interest is growing. At least 4,500 petitions have been filed with the California Judicial Council seeking alterations to pot sentences or to have them expunged all together. California isn’t alone, either. People are more open to pot legalization than ever, including conservatives (Jeff Sessions not withstanding). And nine other states including Maryland, Oregon, and Vermont have passed legislation similar to California’s. While nothing can make up for time lost behind bars or income shortchanged by a bad rap sheet, this is one positive step that thousands can take towards a better life.
(Via Connecticut Post)