As marijuana continues to become a legalized drug nationwide, a number of states are making efforts to correct past convictions that have sent people – many of them people of color – away for years. Prosecutors in San Francisco will reportedly dismiss and throw out thousands of marijuana-related convictions for residents, NPR reports.
The San Francisco District Attorney’s office will reportedly reevaluate cases dating all the way back to 1975. District Attorney George Gascón announced in a statement on Wednesday (Jan. 31), that his office will dismiss and seal more than 3,000 misdemeanor convictions with “no action necessary.”
Prosecutors will also be reviewing more the 4900 felony convictions and may even consider reducing the charges to misdemeanors. Petitioning to have records expunged is also possible, Gascón stated.
“A criminal conviction can be a barrier to employment, housing and other benefits, so instead of waiting for the community to take action, we’re taking action for the community,” he said.
The District Attorney’s office also noted particular discrepancies in past convictions in the past decades, primarily related to racial bias. In 2000, for instance, African-Americans were 7.8 percent of San Francisco’s population, but comprised 41 percent of marijuana arrests. And by 2010, African-Americans occupied half of the marijuana-related arrests, yet they only represented 6 percent of the city’s population.
San Francisco legalized the recreational use of marijuana to legal-aged adults in 2016.