SACRAMENTO, CA) – Today, Governor Newsom signed a package of bills aimed at strengthening California’s cannabis laws. Included in the package was Assembly Bill (AB) 1706 by Assemblymember Mia Bonta which will resolve implementation gaps in California’s cannabis record sealing law. The Last Prisoner Project (LPP) and Assemblymember Bonta championed the legislation to ensure that this overdue relief is finally provided to Californians who are already entitled to automatic record clearance under the law.
After Proposition 64 passed in 2016, individuals with low-level cannabis records became eligible to have those records removed in light of legalization. To fully realize the intent of that policy, legislation was enacted in 2019, so eligible individuals would receive record relief from the state automatically. However, implementation gaps have prevented tens of thousands of individuals from actually receiving the automatic sealing. AB 1706 is the necessary fix to finally complete this job.
AB 1706 provides clear deadlines and guidance for the agencies charged with clearing eligible records from the criminal histories of individuals. It also adds oversight and progress reporting, to ensure that bureaucratic delays and lack of transparency do not bar deserving individuals from relief any longer. For decades, Californians were criminalized for cannabis, which now produces the state significant revenue. It is fundamentally unjust that these individuals – disproportionately individuals of color – continue to bear the stigma of criminal records for something that is now legal.
In December 2021, Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a bulletin urging county district attorneys and courts to take the necessary steps to complete implementation of the policy that has been in effect since 2019. AB 1706 mandates that they do so, and with today’s signature, “California is much closer to ensuring that relief is finally delivered” stated Assemblymember Bonta.
“Last Prisoner Project is proud to sponsor AB 1706 by Assemblymember Bonta, a champion of justice reform. As a national leader of smart public policy, it is fundamentally unjust that California continues to support a system of legalization for only certain communities. Public policy is meant to work for everyone. Without AB 1706’s necessary fix to the record sealing statute, our state will continue to fail the very communities who bear the brunt of the war on drugs to this day. To begin to right the wrongs of prohibition and make legalization accessible to all residents, the onus must be on the government to remove these erroneous convictions from peoples’ records, so that they may begin to rebuild their lives. California must be accountable to the origins of prohibition, and finish this job once and for all. Justice delayed is justice denied,” said Gracie Burger, State Policy Director at Last Prisoner Project.
“It is unimaginable and unacceptable that years after we legalized cannabis, Californians are still waiting to get their records cleared. We promised this to tens of thousands of Californians, and to date, we have fallen short of that promise. My bill finally provides that relief and guarantee individuals are not denied opportunities to succeed in life because of minor cannabis records. We have a moral obligation to get this right,” said Assemblymember Bonta.
AB 1706 goes into effect January 1, 2023.