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Getting Marijuana Convictions Vacated – Hope for Those Persecuted by Prohibition

Posted by Joseph Tully | Jan 17, 2017

Since Californians voted overwhelmingly to pass Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) on November 8, we've been busy doing motions to have marijuana convictions vacated and people cleared.  The AUMA really is a great hope for so many persecuted by prohibition.

Marijuana is now legal for recreational use, and basically decriminalized. Individuals who paid a steep price for a minor offense no longer have that criminal cloud over their heads.

Discrimination in Charges

Even though California's marijuana possession laws haven't been as harsh as those in other states for quite some time, the Drug Policy Alliance reports that 14,000 people are still arrested annually in the Golden State on marijuana charges. In the past decade, nearly half a million people were charged with marijuana offenses.

White, African-American and Latino people have similar rates of marijuana usage, but African-Americans are arrested twice as often as white people on misdemeanor marijuana charges – and five times more often on felony charges. Latinos are arrested on marijuana charges 35 percent more frequently than whites. People of color will especially benefit from AUMA's retroactive vacation and reduction of previous convictions. In that sense, AUMA is a civil rights victory.

Before the AUMA

Penalties for marijuana offenses in recent decades were not nearly as severe as they once were, but it was still not possible to expunge – dismiss and seal – these records. It also wasn't possible to reduce felony convictions to misdemeanors. With the passing of the AUMA, that's no longer the case.

Hundreds of thousands of people throughout the state with past marijuana convictions can now either wipe the slate clean or turn felony convictions into misdemeanors. It also means those with felony convictions reduced to a misdemeanor again have gun rights and eligibility for a host of other previously denied privileges.

The ridiculous persecution of people who only wanted to smoke a little weed is over – at least for now. The federal government still continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, the same as heroin.

As ludicrous as this sounds, the DEA rejected the attempt to loosen marijuana's classification just this August. By DEA standards, as a Schedule I drug, marijuana is more dangerous than methamphetamine and oxycodone, both Schedule II substances.

The Obama administration did not favor legalization but did not interfere with states whose voters chose legal pot. With the Trump administration coming in, there are some unknowns, so it's best to get the expungement or offense reduction process started as soon as possible.

Previous Convictions and Expungement

Under the AUMA, anyone aged 21 or over previously convicted of possessing not more than 1 ounce of marijuana or 4 grams of concentrate can now have this criminal record expunged. For anyone under age 21 at the time of the offense, the conviction is reduced to an infraction.

However, if you were found in possession on school grounds, you can't entirely expunge the record. If you were over 18 at the time, the offense is reducible to a misdemeanor, while if you were under 18 it becomes an infraction. Here's some additional information:

  • Since the cultivation of up to six marijuana plants is now legal, the prior felony conviction may be expunged. For those convicted of possessing more than six plants, the felony conviction is reducible to a misdemeanor.
  • Both possession and transportation of marijuana for sale, formerly felonies, are now misdemeanors.
  • Some marijuana convictions remain felonies and can't be expunged or reduced. This includes selling marijuana to those under 18. There are a few people who aren't eligible for expungement or reduction – those considered an “unreasonable risk to public safety.”

Petitioning the Court

If your offense is no longer a crime under AUMA or is now a lesser offense, having your record expunged or conviction reduced is a matter of petitioning the court. You can petition the court whether you have completed your sentence, are still incarcerated, or on parole or probation.

At Tully and Weiss, we'll help you through the process and get this particular burden off your back. Our experienced marijuana defense lawyers work tirelessly to get your cannabis related conviction vacated and your record expunged. Are you eligible? Give us a call or Contact Online

About the Author

Joseph Tully

Founding Partner, Criminal Law Specialist Our founding attorney, Joseph Tully, is sought out for his expert legal advice throughout California. With over 20 years of experience as a criminal lawyer, in 1000+ felony and other cases, Tully served as felony trial counsel as a public defender before...