LA County district attorney announces dismissal of 66K marijuana convictions

LA County district attorney announces dismissal of 66K marijuana convictions
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The Los Angeles County district attorney announced the dismissal of 66,000 marijuana convictions Thursday, saying it was in response to years of drug enforcement that disproportionately charged people of color.

The county’s district attorney, Jackie Lacey, filed a motion asking a judge to remove 62,000 felony convictions dating back to 1961 and 4,000 misdemeanor convictions in 10 cities in the county, her office said. Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta signed the motion Thursday. 

The removal of convictions has assisted 53,000 people. Thirty-two percent of the people affected by the order are black, 45 percent are Latino and 20 percent are white, the district attorney's office said.

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The act removed felonies off 22,000 individual's records and erased the criminal record of 15,000 people. The county is refraining from erasing 2,142 marijuana convictions because of the individual’s criminal history, although they can still petition to be resentenced, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“The dismissal of tens of thousands of old cannabis-related convictions in Los Angeles County will bring much-needed relief to communities of color that disproportionately suffered the unjust consequences of our nation’s drug laws,” Lacey said in a statement.

A nonprofit technology organization Code for America helped the motion to be possible after developing an algorithm to find which individuals were eligible to have their convictions erased under Proposition 64, passed in California in 2016. The technology also assists in automatically filling out forms related to eligibility with the courts, according to KTLA5.

California law allows individuals to possess or buy up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants. 

Previously, the responsibility for dismissing marijuana convictions fell on convicts, who had to file petitions or hire lawyers to get their records adjusted, according to KTLA5. But Code for America’s algorithm allowed data from 10,000 cases to be examined in “a matter of seconds,” Evonne Silva, the organization's senior program director of criminal justice, said, according to the Times.

Numerous studies have indicated that people of color have been disproportionately affected by drug enforcement actions, with a 2016 study showing African Americans making up almost 25 percent of those in prison for marijuana convictions in California although they make up 6 percent of the state’s population.

Updated at 2:40 p.m.