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Posted under: Politics

Los Angeles District Attorney Office Will Dismiss 66,000 Marijuana Convictions

Weeding out old cases.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced Thursday morning that her office called for 66,000 marijuana convictions to be dismissed, CBSLA reports.

"We believe it is the largest effort in California to wipe out old criminal convictions in a single court motion," Lacey said.

The legalization of marijuana in California, or Proposition 64, means prosecutors in the state are tasked with reducing marijuana convictions from felonies down to misdemeanors. Lacey, on the other hand, wants to dismiss a decade's worth of cannabis-related convictions.

"I've instructed my deputy district attorneys to ask the court to dismiss all eligible cannabis-related convictions," Lacey said at a press conference according to CBSLA. "I also took the will of the voters one step further. I expanded the criteria to go above and beyond the parameters of the law to ensure that many more people will benefit from this historic moment in time."

State prosecutors asked a superior court judge to dismiss 62,000 felony cannabis convictions for cases dating back to 1961, and they asked for an additional 3,700 misdemeanor cannabis possession cases to be dismissed as well, CBSLA reported.

Broken up by demographic, about 32% of those affected are Black, 20% are white, 45% are Latinx and 3% are another to unknown race, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

This means anyone who has not been convicted of a crime within 10 years, who is older than 50 years old, who has completed probation, and/or who was convicted under the age of 21 will be relieved for this initiative, CBSLA reported.

"As a result of our actions these convictions should no longer burden those who have struggled to find a job or a place to live because of their criminal record," Lacey said via CBSLA.

The vote, as mentioned earlier by Lacey, is the elimination of some cannabis-related crimes and wiping out past criminal convictions, or at least reducing felonies to misdemeanors following the state's legalizing of marijuana in 2016.

The problem, however, is identifying more than 200,000 statewide cases from the 60s to the present.

According to the Chronicle, the county is working with a nonprofit tech organization called Code for America to use computer algorithms to find suitable cases that are difficult to recognize in decades-old court documents. The software used, Clear My Record, is a free service for people with a criminal record in select California counties.

Code for America will help dismiss more than 85,000 marijuana convictions in five counties, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Contra Costa counties, the Chronicle reported.

"This is a clear demonstration that automatic record clearance is possible at scale and can help to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs," Evonne Silva, Code for America's senior program director of criminal justice, said in a statement.

The software can identify eligible cases as well as fill out forms with the courts automatically. 

The Chronicle reports that the software can analyze conviction eligibility for about 10,000 people per minute, which is better than having county employees search through thousands of individual records.

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