California Bill Would Change Criminal Marijuana Records for 100,000 People

California legalized adult use marijuana last year and launched recreational sales on January 1, 2018. The dawn of the new industry is bitter-sweet for many, who live with the burden of a criminal record for acts that are no longer a crime. A new state bill would change all that, erasing criminal marijuana records for an estimated 100,000 people.

The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Rob Bonta on Tuesday. It goes a step further than California's current law that allows people with marijuana convictions to have their records expunged if they initiate the process themselves by requiring country courts to begin automatically expunging eligible records.

The problem with the old law, says Bonta, is most people with criminal drug records are either unaware of the law or lack the means to initiate the complicated and costly process of having their convictions expunged.

Only around 5,000 people have applied to change their criminal records since the option became available last year – evidence that the system is not working for the estimated 100,000 state residents whose lives are stunted due to marijuana-related drug convictions.

Bonta says his bill would give these people “the fresh start they're entitled to.”

A separate bill introduced in California last year would help protect California's marijuana industry from the federal government by preventing local law enforcement from cooperating with federal efforts to crack down on state-legal growers and retailers. Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, who introduced the bill last year, aims to move the bill forward during the current legislative session.

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