Marijuana convictions dismissed in Los Angeles, establishes faster way to clear cases with cutting-edge tech

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Thousands have cases dismissed after laws pass decriminalizing marijuana.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey recently announced that her office dismissed nearly 66,000 marijuana convictions on Thursday. In this effort 62,000 felony cannabis convictions dating back to 1961, and an additional 4,000 misdemeanor cases across 10 cities in Los Angeles County were removed from the records of those convicted. 

D.A. Lacey at press conference with Code for America.

This massive decriminalization initiative occurred in the local government’s partnership with Code for America, a tech non-profit that created software, Clear My Record, to help formerly convicted folk clear or change their criminal record. Clear My Record is a sector of technology called Civic technology, or civic tech, which helps government’s carry out more efficient operations and communications to service citizens and provide easier ways to communicate, stay connected and engage with government.

The five-year program was a pilot to study how effective their technology could assist state and local government in clearing records after the passage of Proposition 64, a law that reduced, reclassified, sealed and dismissed convictions. In total, 85,000 cases were dismissed our sealed throughout the state of California. “Of those, approximately 32% are Black or African American, 20% are White, 45% are Latinx, and 3% are other or unknown,” reported Code for America.

In a tweet, Code for America thanked California officials for “demonstrating that we can transform the way government delivers services to those most impacted by the criminal justice system.

Currently, Code for America is in a partnership with the state of Illinois to assist in clearing thousands of cannabis convictions under the the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx and Director Meis speak with Justice Karmeier

“The technology and innovation made possible through our partnership with Code for America will help us provide broad and equitable conviction relief for tens of thousands of people while ensuring that more of our time and resources can be used to combat violent crime,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx when speaking on the non-profit-government partnership.

Now, as New York is poised to possibly legalize cannabis this year, it will also adopt a process of sealing and dismissing records quickly. At the height of stop and frisk in New York, Black were arrested for marijuana possession at seven times the rate for whites. In 2011, alone Black and Latinos made up 86 percent of arrests by the New York Police Department. A staggering 71 percent of those arrests were from the 17th precinct in Midtown, Manhattan. 

Added, removing convictions helps position Blacks and Latinos to procure cannabis licenses. Currently, only those without criminal records can apply for licenses, and the most dominant group getting approved are wealthy, white men.

“New York has an opportunity to become a leading example for implementing cannabis legalization from a social justice lens, where other states have fallen short,” said Drug Policy Alliance’s Kassandra Fredrique.

If New York moves on a marijuana bill then it readies other states in the region to follow.

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