Thousands of California marijuana convictions officially reduced, others dismissed
With the stroke of a pen by a Superior Court judge in California, nearly 26,000 people with felony marijuana convictions on their records had them reduced to less onerous misdemeanor convictions last month.
In addition, some 1,000 people with misdemeanor marijuana convictions had those cases completely dismissed.
The moves came in a three-page order signed by San Diego County Superior Court Judge Eugenia A. Eyherabide on Feb. 5. The mass reduction and dismissals came almost a year after the San Diego County district attorney’s office submitted a list of cases for relief as part of a state law that required prosecutors to find eligible cases.
That law was an outgrowth of Proposition 64, a 2016 voter-approved measure that legalized some marijuana use and allowed people previously convicted of most marijuana-related offenses to have their felony convictions reduced to misdemeanors or their misdemeanor convictions dismissed. The state law required the Department of Justice and local prosecutors to compile and review all eligible cases and submit the list to local courts by July 1 last year.
Dist. Atty. Summer Stephan complied with the law and submitted a list of cases in February 2020, just before the pandemic hit and caused a near-shutdown of the courts for some time, and an overall slowdown in court activity. The slowdown was a major reason that granting the motion took nearly a year.
Although the charges have been altered, it may take some time to update individual court records to reflect the changes, and the court system is now working through those logistics, said San Diego County Superior Court spokeswoman Emily Cox.
The public defender’s office can help people clear their records through its Fresh Start program, said Deputy Public Defender Kate Braner. Though Eyherabide’s order took effect immediately, the lag time to update individual records could cause problems for people who undergo background checks or checks for certain licenses that rely on scouring court records.
That program can be contacted at Fresh.Start@sdcounty.gov.
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