Goodbye Old Pot Charges: California Program to Erase Old Marijuana Convictions

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Every California county prosecutor can now use new technology to erase or reduce an estimated 220,000 old marijuana convictions after voters broadly legalized the drug in 2016.

Code for America, a San Francisco-based nonprofit tech organization, announced Thursday it is making its computer algorithms available for free to all 58 district attorneys. The program quickly finds eligible cases in court documents that may date back decades.

Six counties including Los Angeles and San Francisco earlier used the Clear My Record program on a trial basis to clear an estimated 75,000 cannabis convictions.

Voters approved eliminating some pot-related crimes and wiping out past criminal convictions or reducing felonies to misdemeanors when they legalized adult marijuana use in 2016.

But there was no easy way to identify those who qualified.

The computer program not only identifies eligible cases, but automatically fills out forms to file with the courts. It can analyze conviction eligibility for about 10,000 people per minute, instead of requiring county employees to dig through individual records.

District attorneys have until July to decide whether to dismiss sentences or fight reducing the convictions.

Code for America founder and executive director Jennifer Pahlka said in a statement that the expansion "will open the door to relief for tens of thousands of Californians...who have been denied jobs, housing and other opportunities because of their criminal record."

The announcement comes a week after Cook County, Illinois, State's Attorney Kimberly Foxx announced she would use the technology, becoming the first county outside California to participate.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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