San Francisco Uses New Technology To Dismiss Thousands of Marijuana Cases

Call it Government 2.0

Thousands of marijuana-related convictions dating back to 1975 in San Francisco are scheduled to be dismissed, thanks to a new program the San Francisco District Attorney developed in conjunction with Code For America.

The program scans court records to find convictions eligible for dismissal after California passed a law in 2016 that allowed recreational marijuana use. Thanks to the new algorithm, 8,132 convictions are now scheduled to be dismissed and sealed.

"Prosecutors should act to address the inherent unfairness of penalizing people for activity that is no longer illegal," said District Attorney George Gascón on Monday. "Using technology, we have been able to proactively bring greater racial equity and fairness to marijuana legalization in California. I am thrilled to see other counties and states following suit by offering similar relief in their communities. It’s the right thing to do."

Proposition 64 allows people who have been convicted in the past to petition the court to have their convictions overturned or reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. But because the process proved to be time-consuming and costly for many, only 23 people petitioned the court for a sentence reduction in San Francisco in 2018.

The algorithm, developed by Code For America, allows the district attorney's office to use new technology to sift through thousands of court records for record clearance under state law. The program then fills out the required forms and generates a complete motion for the petitioner in a PDF document. The district attorney's office then files the completed motion with the court for dismissal and sealing.

In total, the program identified 9,362 convictions eligible for dismissal and sealing going back to 1975. The identified cases have been presented to the court and will dismissed and sealed shortly.

"If you are the mom or dad who wants to participate in the kids' school activities and they're being told you can't go to that field trip because you have a felony conviction because you sold a nickel bag in the Tenderloin 10 years ago, that's the people that we care about," said Gascón.

"This partnership also helps to address wrongs caused by the failed war on drugs, felt most strongly by communities of color." the press release added. "In San Francisco, approximately 33% of all dismissed convictions involved African American people, and 27% involved Latinx people."

People who wish to see if they can get their marijuana conviction dismissed or reclassified can contact the San Francisco district attorney's office by phone at (415) 553-1751, or via email at sfda.prop64relief@sfgov.org. People with convictions dating before 1975 can contact the district attorney's office to begin the process.

Photo: Getty Images

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