San Francisco to clear thousands of marijuana convictions dating back 40 years


Thousands of San Francisco residents convicted of marijuana offenses since 1975 will see those convictions dismissed or reduced under an effort announced on Wednesday by the city’s district attorney.

California’s Proposition 64, which legalized recreational pot use and possession and reduced criminal penalties, allowed people to ask a court to reduce or dismiss past marijuana convictions.

But top San Francisco prosecutor George Gascon said on Wednesday he would not wait and would instead dismiss 3,038 misdemeanors and consider reducing an additional 4,900 felony marijuana charges.

Today's announcement covers effectively all the marijuana convictions adjudicated in San Francisco's courts since 1975. The #WarOnDrugs was a failure, it's time we take action to undo the damage it has done.

  George Gascon (@GeorgeGascon) January 31, 2018

The move is meant to make it easier for people who would otherwise have to retain an attorney to file expungement paperwork for convictions that can scuttle employment and housing opportunities and have disproportionately affected African-Americans, he said.

“Long ago we lost our ability to distinguish the dangerous from the nuisance, and it has broken our pocket books, the fabric of our communities, and we are no safer for it,” Gascon said in a statement.

Gascon said relatively few Californians had petitioned courts to have convictions expunged since the legalization measure was passed in late 2016.

CA law enforcement made ~ 2.7 million cannabis arrests btwn 1916 & 2016. #Prop64 allows for past marijuana crimes to be petitioned to have convictions reduced or wiped. But only 4,885 Californians have petitioned cts RE #Prop64 cannabis convictions, according to @DrugPolicyOrg

  George Gascon (@GeorgeGascon) January 31, 2018

California Lieutenant Governor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom tweeted his support on Wednesday.


“This example underscores the true promise of legalization –providing new hope for those whose lives were derailed by a costly, broken and racially discriminatory system,” he said.

Nine states plus the District of Columbia have legalized the drug for recreational use, while dozens of others permit its medicinal use. California finalized its licensing, regulatory and tax structure to allow cannabis shops to open for retail sales this year.


Earlier this month, however, the U.S. Justice Department rescinded an Obama administration policy that had eased enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states that legalized the drug, instead giving federal prosecutors wide latitude to pursue criminal charges.

“While drug policy on the federal level is going backwards, San Francisco is once again taking the lead to undo the damage that this country’s disastrous, failed drug war has had on our nation and on communities of color in particular,” Gascon said on Wednesday.