California's New Recreational Pot Law Could Help Convicted Drug Felons

With the Proposition 64 vote in the books, Californians 21 and older soon will be able to legally consume recreational marijuana. But the new law also will deliver several perks for convicted felons.

The change could affect hundreds of thousands of lives in a positive way. One of those is people with felonies connected to marijuana possession having the crime erased from records, allowing some to check "no" where the felony question comes up on job applications.

Bryan Rosenthal is facing a marijuana conviction, saying he was arrested around 2006.

"It's been on my record ever since," he said.

The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2018, allows Californians to smoke up to an ounce of weed. That may allow Rosenthal to put his life back on track.

"It will simply be a process of sending an application, getting it processed, and I'm no longer a felon," he said.

The law will give a reprieve to hundreds of thousands with marijuana felonies either sitting in jail or soon facing a judge, as they could have their charges reduced to a misdemeanor.

There are some requirements to reduce marijuana sentences:

  • No charges should have involved children.
  • Their arrest had to be at the age of 21.
  • Marijuana amounts had to be an ounce to six plants in the home.

To clean up legal records, those affected should contact their attorney. But a simple court filing could change their lives.

"So you're not overturning sentences or getting rid of it entirely, but you are taking tens of thousands of people and saying, 'You're no longer felons under California law,'" said Tamar Todd of Drug Policy Alliance.

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