The dismissals include 62,000 felony convictions for marijuana cases dating back to 1961 and around 4,000 misdemeanor cases, District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s office said in a news release.
“I am privileged to be part of a system dedicated to finding innovative solutions and implementing meaningful criminal justice reform that gives all people the support they need to build the life they deserve,” she said. “This is a clear demonstration that automatic record clearance is possible at scale and can help to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs.”
Her office said that about 53,000 people will obtain receive conviction relief, saying that 32 percent are black, 20 percent are white, 45 percent are Latino, and 3 percent are unknown.
“As a result of our actions, these convictions should no longer burden those who have struggled to find a job or a place to live because of their criminal record,” Lacey said in a press conference in announcing the move. She added that it’s the largest mass dismissal of marijuana cases in state history.
In 2016, California voters legalized recreational marijuana usage in a referendum. The initiative also made it possible for people who were previously convicted of possessing, growing, selling, or transporting marijuana to get reduced sentences.
Her office worked with Code for America, a nonprofit that uses a program to find decades-old cases among court documents. After the latest move, the organization will have helped dismiss more than 85,000 marijuana in California, according to an official in the news release.
Lacey is also seeking reelection. An opponent of her’s said that she is not doing enough on criminal-justice reform. But a spokesperson for her office told The Wall Street Journal that she began a program that led to the dismissals last year.
“The facts and the timeline show that this decision was based on seeking justice for all, not politics,” the spokeperson said.