Los Angeles County is looking to balance the scales of justice. This week the county district attorney announced that she will be dismissing nearly 66,000 marijuana convictions, 75 percent of which belong to Black and Latino offenders.
“The dismissal of tens of thousands of old cannabis-related convictions in Los Angeles County will bring much-needed relief to communities of color that disproportionately suffered the unjust consequences of our nation’s drug laws,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a news release.
“I am privileged to be part of a system dedicated to finding innovative solutions and implementing meaningful criminal justice reform that gives all people the support they need to build the life they deserve,” she continued.
The mass dismissal was made possible by a November 2016 ballot question, where voters backed the legalization of recreational marijuana. Proposition 64 also allowed to people to ask for their prior cannabis convictions expunged. CNN reports that in 2018, the state legislature tasked the Department of Justice with scouring old criminal records to find marijuana convictions that should be downgraded or expunged. The state partnered with the nonprofit tech organization, Code for America to make the clearances possible.
Richard Nixon’s War on Drugs has long been considered a major disruptor in the Black community and contributed greatly to the mass incarceration epidemic now present in the United States. States like California provide evidence that automatic clearance of old records is possible and steps can be taken to address the failed war on drugs.