Marijuana. Katharine Lotze/Signal
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a proposal calling for the county Office of Cannabis Management to create a plan to reclassify and resentence some marijuana convictions.
“Part of what (county officials) want to do is to make it easy for folks to expunge their records for marijuana laws for people who have made a mistake but yet have tried to make their lives better,” said Tony Bell, spokesman for Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “For people who have made a mistake but yet have tried to make their lives better, she believes in redemption in those cases.”
Officials said the proposal would be in accordance with Proposition 64, the voter-approved ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana but also allows for some cannabis-related convictions to be reduced or dismissed.
“The war on drugs led to decades-long racial disparities in cannabis-related arrests and convictions,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said in a statement. “We have a responsibility now to seek widespread reclassification and resentencing for those with minor cannabis convictions on their records, including the destruction of court records for youth.”
Reducing or removing convictions for cannabis would open opportunities to employment, housing and financial assistance, Ridley-Thomas said.
“For many, this is the second chance that was due to them, and has been a long time coming,” he said.
Ridley-Thomas and fellow supervisor and co-author Hilda Solis said drug enforcement has disproportionately impacted African-American and Latino communities. Other states that have legalized recreational marijuana have seen arrests fall after legalization, but have not used data tracking, which has resulted in racial disparities. As an example, the supervisors said three times as many African-Americans were arrested in Colorado compared to Caucasians, Ridley-Thomas and Solis said.
Drug Policy Alliance Policy Coordinator Eunisses Hernandez told the board the barriers to employment