Before widespread legalization of cannabis in California, the War on Drugs led to many individuals being prosecuted for cannabis related crimes. Countless individuals were criminalized under California’s previous cannabis laws and they have had to bear the burden of their convictions over the years through lost job opportunities and social stigmatization. Many of these individuals were convicted for simple possession or convictions that would be considered legal or of a lesser sentence under California’s new regulations.
The passing of the AUMA created a conflict between previous cannabis convictions and new laws that have made those actions legal or of lesser consequence. Prior to September 30, 2018, individuals with cannabis convictions were required to submit a petition for recall or dismissal of sentence, dismissal and sealing, or redesignation in order to get prior convictions dismissed or expunged from their record.
To remedy this problem California passed Assembly Bill 1793, which forces the Department of Justice (DOJ) to review the records and identify past convictions that are potentially eligible for recall or dismissal of sentence, dismissal and sealing, or redesignation pursuant to the Adult-Use Marijuana Act (AUMA). The bill provides safeguards by authorizing prosecutors to challenge resentencing for convictions by persons that pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety or do not meet the eligibility requirements.
Once the DOJ has identified past convictions that may be eligible, they must notify the prosecution. The prosecution then notifies the public defender when challenging a specific case or the public courts if it does not challenge a case. If there is no challenge to a recall or dismissal of sentence, dismissal and sealing, or redesignation, the courts are required to reduce or dismiss the conviction pursuant to the AUMA.
While this process seems daunting, it is an important step towards remedying targeted criminalization of socially disadvantaged groups. Hopefully the state will allocate sufficient resources to process all eligible cases by the currently proposed deadline of July 1, 2020. AB 1793 and the recently passed California Cannabis Equity Act of 2018 (SB 1294) evidence the state legislature’s intent to alleviate the burden borne by persons with minor cannabis convictions. Only time will tell if the state’s programs can actualize these honorable intentions.
Green Consulting Partners recognizes the importance of the Cannabis Equity Act and similar efforts to even the playing field within an industry that largely caters to big money investors. We are proud to work with aspiring cannabis entrepreneurs from all backgrounds, including those eligible for social equity licensing benefits. Green Consulting Partners is happy to express our commitment to social justice and equity initiatives by offering reduced licensing and compliance services to social equity applicants in qualifying jurisdictions.
California Cannabis Legislation Links:
AB 2020: Cannabis Event Licensing
AB 2215: Cannabis for Pets
AB 2402: MJ Consumer Information
AB 2721: Cannabis Testing Laboratories
AB 2914: CBD & THC Infused Beverages
SB 1409: Commercial Hemp Cultivators
SB 1459: California Provisional Cannabis License