A New Leaf: Governor Signs Bill to Expunge Past Marijuana Convictions

Californians with past marijuana convictions will get a chance to “reclaim their lives” under landmark legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown Sunday night. Assembly Bill 1793 will lead to automatic expungement of thousands of prior marijuana-related convictions in keeping with the spirit of Proposition 64.

The new legislation gives the Department of Justice seven months to review all past marijuana convictions in California and send petitions for expungement or reduced sentencing to counties’ district attorneys. This eliminates individuals’ need to initiate action and wade through the difficult process of clearing past marijuana offenses from their records.

Once in receipt of the petitions, district attorneys will have a year to grant or challenge the request. Those currently serving time for marijuana offenses will be given priority under the law.

One of the lesser-known provisions of California’s marijuana legalization measure was the ability to reduce or expunge past convictions related to pot. Relatively few people have taken advantage of this opportunity, either because they are not aware of the provision or because they have found the process of petitioning too complex.

“Prop. 64 provided redemption and rehab and a chance to rebuild those lives—these expungement and reductions are a big part of that,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), who introduced the bill. “I wanted to make sure that the promise in Prop. 64 was kept.”