California Bill Could Automatically Expunge Decades of Marijuana Convictions

By Michael Klazema on 9/18/2018
California residents with past criminal activity could soon find their records expunged under a bill that has made it to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown. Per a report from NPR, the bill—which would expunge convictions or trim sentences for many marijuana-related convictions—was recently approved by the California State Senate. The only step separating the legislation from becoming law is the governor’s signature.

If Governor Brown approves the bill, it would legally force the California Department of Justice to reopen and review drug cases dating back to 1975. Through this review process, the Department of Justice would create a list of convictions eligible for expungement or commuted sentences under the new law. The Department of Justice would have until July 1, 2019 to conduct the review process. After that, cases deemed eligible for review would be handed over to relevant district attorney offices, which would have another year to review the cases and identify any reasons for objection.

This bill is a sequel of sorts to Proposition 64, the law that legalized recreational marijuana use in California in 2016. As the NPR article notes, that law didn’t just make it legal to buy marijuana but also eliminated certain crimes for marijuana possession and use.

The law didn’t retroactively eliminate past convictions or sentences for marijuana crimes. As a result, there are still people in California who are serving sentences or are classified as convicted criminals for something that is no longer illegal.

Even without the currently-pending legislation, ex-offenders whose convictions pertain to marijuana use have a strong argument for expungement. These individuals could petition the court to erase their convictions from the public record—something that would effectively remove them from any employment-related background check. NPR states since Proposition 64, more than 4,000 California citizens have petitioned to have their marijuana offenses expunged.

The argument behind the new legislation is that many ex-offenders are either not aware that expungement is a possibility or can’t afford it. Typically, petitioning for expungement involves hiring an attorney, appearing at a hearing, and other inconvenient or expensive steps. The law would rectify these issues by place the burden of expungement on the shoulders of the state rather than offenders.

Previously, the city of San Francisco took similar steps to initiate expungements for marijuana offenders. The city was inspired to do so based on the small number of people who initiated the expungement process of their own accord following the passage of Proposition 64.

At, we have a tool that helps people with past convictions determine whether they may be eligible for expungement. The tool, MyClearStart, starts with a free eligibility test. The test was developed with the assistance of legal professionals and consistently delivers accurate results.

Since not every state is like California, with the possibility of automatic expungement on the table, tools like this are important if you have a criminal record that you believe could be expunged to your personal and professional benefit. Take the test today to get started.


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