Clearing Cannabis Convictions

Public Defender Ricardo Garcia, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Code for America founder and executive director Jennifer Pahlka, District Attorney Jackie Lacey,and Interim Alternate Public Defender Erika Anzoategui. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors.

Los Angeles County announced a partnership with the nonprofit Code for America that would automatically clear more than 50,000 eligible cannabis convictions under Proposition 64.

Code for America’s Clear My Record pilot program proactively identifies convictions that qualify for resentencing or dismissal under the ballot measure approved by voters in November 2016.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined District Attorney Jackie Lacey at a Hall of Justice press conference announcing the partnership.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with Code for America founder and executive director Jennifer Pahlka. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors.

“The war on drugs led to decades-long racial disparities in cannabis-related arrests and convictions,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “We have a responsibility to right these wrongs by utilizing the latest innovations in technology, such as Code for America’s Clear My Record initiative, to ensure that people who have been disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs get the second chance they deserve.”

Last year, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas urged County leaders to develop a countywide plan to facilitate the resentencing of eligible cannabis convictions, and more recently called for utilizing innovative technology to accelerate such resentencing across Los Angeles County.

District Attorney Lacey said, “As technology advances and the criminal justice system evolves, we as prosecutors must do our part to pursue innovative justice procedures on behalf of our constituents.”

“This collaboration will improve people’s lives by erasing the mistakes of their past and hopefully lead them on a path to a better future,” District Attorney Lacey added. “Helping to clear that path by reducing or dismissing cannabis convictions can result in someone securing a job or benefitting from other programs that may have been unavailable to them in the past.”

Proposition 64 allowed certain cannabis convictions to be reclassified and resentenced. As of early 2018, however, fewer than 1,000 of those eligible for relief in Los Angeles County have filed a petition, partly because the process is cumbersome and time-consuming.

With the aid of Code for America’s Clear My Record algorithm, the District Attorney’s office would be able to o automatically and securely evaluate an individual’s eligibility for record clearance by reading and interpreting conviction data in just a few minutes. This requires no action on the part of the individual.

“In the digital age, automatic record clearance is just common sense,” Code for America founder and executive director Jennifer Pahlka said. “When we do this right, we show that government can make good on its promises, especially for the hundreds of thousands who have been denied jobs, housing and other opportunities despite the passage of laws intended to provide relief. Clear My Record changes the scale and speed of justice and has the potential to ignite change across the state and the nation.”