Governor Signs Bonta Bill to Reduce or Remove Outdated Cannabis Convictions

SACRAMENTO – Governor Jerry Brown has signed AB 1793 which will remove barriers to housing and employment by creating a less-burdensome pathway for Californians to have certain criminal convictions for previous cannabis-related offenses removed or reduced on their records.

“AB 1793 will bring people closer to realizing their existing rights by creating a simpler pathway for Californians to turn the page and make a fresh start,” said Bonta. “Long after paying their debt to society, people shouldn’t continue to face the collateral consequences, like being denied a job or housing, because they have an outdated conviction on their records. I thank Governor Brown for signing this important bill.”

When Proposition 64 was passed by voters in 2016, it contained provisions that not only prospectively reduced or eliminated many cannabis law violations, but it made those changes retroactive. This means people with felonies or misdemeanors for cannabis-related offenses that were changed by Proposition 64 are now legally entitled to petition the courts to expunge or reduce those convictions.

“The majority of eligible individuals have not gone through the process of petitioning the courts,” said Bonta. “Many people are unaware of this opportunity to change their records, but even for those who know their rights, navigating the legal system’s bureaucracies can be confusing, costly and time-consuming.”

The California State Department of Justice estimates there are approximately 220,000 cases in California eligible for resentencing and reclassification. Several local District Attorneys in counties like Alameda, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Sonoma, and Yolo are reducing or dismissing Proposition 64-eligible convictions without requiring individuals to initiate the process. However, this is only a handful of California’s 58 counties.

Specifically, AB 1793 provides relief by requiring the State Department of Justice to search their database to identify all Californians potentially eligible for reduction or expungement and to then provide this information to the District Attorney’s Office by July 1, 2019. After the District Attorney has an opportunity to review, the court can then modify the record if there is no challenge by the District Attorney.

“Clearing or reducing past convictions is a difficult process to navigate, particularly for low-income people and individuals living in rural regions of the state. AB 1793 lifts a tremendous burden from the shoulders of thousands by making this process automatic for past marijuana convictions. We hope that this will be the first of many victories needed to rid people of the thousands of restrictions attached to past criminal convictions.” Rodney Holcombe, Office of Legal Affairs, Drug Policy Alliance.

AB 1793 will take effect on January 1, 2019.

Assemblymember Rob Bonta represents the 18th Assembly District, which includes Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro and is the Assistant Majority Leader and Chair of the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Legislative Caucus.