San Francisco’s District Attorney plans to expunge more than 9,300 marijuana convictions from individuals’ records following similar moves in Colorado and Oregon.
“It’s incumbent that we, as law enforcement leaders, continue to evolve how we advance fairness and public safety in our respective communities,”
DA George Gascón said in a statement Monday, The Hill reported.
The thriving cannabis industry is projected to grow to $50 billion by 2026 in the U.S. Thirty-three states have legalized marijuana for recreational or medicinal use and the cannabis job market is expected to grow 700 percent by 2020.
But a huge segment of the population, especially African Americans and Latinos, are seeing no material benefit from the industry, wrote Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in a USA Today opinion piece.
“The growth of this industry has come at the expense of millions of people who bear the resulting impact from a criminal record tied to low-level marijuana possession, not to mention those who remain incarcerated,” Clarke wrote.
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The SanFrancisco DA used an advanced open-source computer algorithm to identify cases that were eligible for expungement, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The 9,362 eligible cases date back to 1975 and were identified with the help of nonprofit advocacy group Code for America.
The work with Code for America came in under budget and took less time than expected, Gascón said. “I hope that our success with Code for America can act as a catalyst for other leaders looking to engage in similar innovative and out-of-the-box methods to reform and rethink what our criminal justice system looks like.”
Civil rights advocate Clarke is pushing for more drastic measures.
She would like to see cannabis industry expansion suspended — no more licenses issued — and tax revenue given to those with convictions to get back on their feet. She has sent letters to hundreds of officials in a dozen states that have legalized recreational marijuana urging them to take action and expunge these records.