California Bill Would Set New Deadlines for Courts to Dismiss, Seal Cannabis Convictions
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California Bill Would Set New Deadlines for Courts to Dismiss, Seal Cannabis Convictions

A 2018 law required the state to clear cannabis-related convictions, but many courts have been slow to act.

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January 27, 2022

A new bill introduced in California would set new deadlines for courts to dismiss and seal cannabis-related convictions after a Los Angeles Times’ investigation revealed that tens of thousands of Californians are still stuck with the crimes on their records.

A 2018 law required the state to clear cannabis-related convictions, but many courts have been slow to act, according to the news outlet, which reported that at least 34,000 records have not been fully processed.

Court officials have blamed several factors for the delays, including the COVID-19 pandemic, staffing shortages and outdated case management systems, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“California made a promise,” the bill’s author, Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Alameda), told the news outlet. “I’m focused on making sure that California keeps its promises. This bill would allow us to automatically seal qualifying cannabis criminal records.”

Bonta’s legislation would give courts a Jan. 1, 2023 deadline to update case records and send them to the California Department of Justice, which manages the state’s criminal history database. The department would then have until July 1, 2023 to update its records, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In addition, the legislation allows the California Department of Justice to proceed in updating its records if state courts or prosecutors miss their deadlines.

The bill also requires the department to lead a public awareness campaign to ensure the public knows that their records have been updated and that they no longer need to disclose these convictions, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“Black people, people of color, especially were targeted by the War on Drugs,” Bonta told the news outlet. "[The bill] is in a sense a form of reparations."