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California reversing marijuana convictions, will Nevada do the same?

Posted at 6:52 AM, Feb 05, 2018

UPDATE JAN. 5: What will happen to people dealing with marijuana charges now that it's legal in Nevada?

Last week, San Francisco's District Attorney announced he would recall, and possibly re-sentence, thousands of felony and misdemeanor pot convictions. Recreational marijuana is legal in California, but it's also legal in the silver state, so why isn't the same thing happening in Nevada?

"I would like things to change overnight, but that's not the reality of the world we live in so I hope that the Nevada legislature picks this issue up," said Andrew Jolley, the CEO of The Source dispensaries.

State Senator Tick Segerblom says they tried dealing with this during the last legislative session.

"It's not fair and we need to do that and hopefully maybe the next legislative session can enable the district attorney to just wipe it out," said Segerblom.

Right now, Segerblom says Nevadans can fix their own records, but it's a long, complicated process.

"Most people don't have the effort or the time to take it off their record, but yet if it pops up from a future employer somebody's going to say, 'what's on their' so it's a big deal and particularly it affects people of color," said Segerblom.

While Nevadans wait for change from the top, Segerblom wants to get free legal help to those who want to clean their records themselves. That plan is still taking root.

ORIGINAL STORY: Good news for people who had a marijuana-related conviction in San Francisco during the past 40-plus years.

There's a good chance it will be removed from their records or be downgraded.

On Wednesday, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said his office is going to look into thousands of cases dating back to 1975, retroactively applying a new California law legalizing some recreational cannabis possession.

The new law allows people whose past crimes would now not be penalized in the same way to petition to have their convictions overturned or reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.

But Gascón said his office is going to be proactive and do the legwork for the people affected.

"We have an opportunity to lead the way (statewide and nationally)," he said.

There are 3,038 misdemeanor marijuana crimes that will be expunged, he told reporters. Another 4,940 felony cases need to be reviewed to see which ones qualify to be reduced to a misdemeanor. Murderers and rapists, for instance, would not be eligible, Gascón said.

"What we want to make sure is ... that people who were really the victims of the war on drugs, in general terms, and are people that are trying to get their lives in the right direction, that they get relief they deserve," he said. "We have damaged a lot of people in our community."

Statewide about 4,900 Californians have filed petitions asking to have their records wiped of cannabis convictions. In San Francisco the number is about 23, Gascón said.

Gascón said no one in San Francisco will have to pay for an attorney, take off work to attend court, or file time-consuming paperwork.

Officials who attended the DA's news conference praised the decision, saying the number of marijuana arrests disproportionately affected minorities. The convictions make it more difficult for people to get jobs, loans or places to live, they said.

Amos C. Brown of the NAACP's San Francisco office said the district's attorney's decision will help African-Americans "who've been the victims of an unjust criminal justice system, denied equality of opportunity" and had their humanity disrespected.

Laura Thomas of the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy organization that says people should not be punished for what they put in their bodies, said applying the law retroactively is very important.

"It doesn't feel like justice to change the laws for some people and leave other people in jail cells," she said.

There are no misdemeanor cases in the courts now, Gascón said.

He believes that people curious about the status of their cases will be able to go to the DA's website to see whether there has been a change. Misdemeanors will be easier to expunge, Gascón said. Felony cases will involve more time.

"I think within a year our work will be done," Gascón said.