The bill just needs Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature to become law.
The California State Legislature yesterday approved a landmark bill that requires California prosecutors to erase or reduce thousands of past marijuana criminal convictions. The bill now awaits Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature, and if implemented could reduce or erase almost 220,000 cases.
Proposition 64, approved by state voters in 2016, legalized the sale and use of marijuana for recreational purposes. It also permitted those with past cannabis convictions to petition the courts to clear their records, but failed to provide procedures or guidance for those eligible.
This new bill is an attempt to address that problem. Marijuana-related offense would be automatically expunged or reduced rather than people having to initiate the process themselves.
Introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), AB 1793 orders the state Department of Justice to identify eligible cases between 1975 and 2016, and pass them along to the appropriate prosecutors. Misdemeanor convictions are eligible to be erased and felonies eligible to be reduced to misdemeanors.
“AB 1793 will bring people closer to realizing their existing rights by creating a simpler pathway for Californians to turn the page and have certain criminal convictions for cannabis-related offenses removed from or reduced on their records,” said Bonta in response to the bill’s passing, in a statement.
“Long after paying their debt to society, people shouldn’t continue to face the collateral consequences, like being denied a job or housing, because they have an outdated conviction on their record,” he added.
The bill originally passed the lower house earlier this year, and then on Wednesday passed the Senate with a 22-8 vote.
State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) explained during the floor debate that the bill “creates a simpler pathway for Californians to turn the page.”
The city of San Francisco has already made such a move. In February, San Francisco District Attorney General George Gascón announced that the Bay Area city would immediately dismiss marijuana misdemeanor convictions dating back to 1975 without those with prior convictions having to file a petition.
If AB 1793 is signed into law, the state Department of Justice will have to prepare a list of eligible cases for prosecutors by July 1, 2019. The prosecutors will then have until July 1, 2020 to determine which cases to challenge.
“I’m proud to see AB 1793 pass the Senate with bi-partisan support and I’m hopeful the Governor will sign this important bill,” added Bonta.
California’s Marijuana Market
Under California’s marijuana law, individuals 21 years of age and older can legally possess and purchase up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis. Adults can also cultivate up to 6 plants for personal use.
It became legal for licensed dispensaries to sell marijuana to adults starting January 1. In the first three months of sales, the state pulled in $60.9 million in marijuana tax revenue. That total is below initial projections, and lawmakers have considered lowering taxes to better support the legal market.
More Marijuana Research
California, where medical marijuana has been legal since 1996, is one of nine U.S. states to legalize adult use cannabis.
UPDATE 10/1/2018: On September 30, Gov. Brown signed AB 1793 into law.
Bonta responded to the bill’s signing, saying: “AB 1793 will bring people closer to realizing their existing rights by creating a simpler pathway for Californians to turn the page and make a fresh start. Long after paying their debt to society, people shouldn’t continue to face the collateral consequences, like being denied a job or housing, because they have an outdated conviction on their records.”