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Media Roundtable: At least 34,000 Californians are stuck with marijuana-related convictions on their records, according to the LAT

On this edition of Your Call's Media Roundtable, we're discuss a Los Angeles Times investigation about why at least 34,000 Californians are still stuck with marijuana-related felonies, misdemeanors and other convictions on their records.

The Times reports that a 2018 law — Assembly Bill 1793 — was supposed to clear past cannabis convictions en masse, doing away with the need to file individual court petitions. The burden was placed on the state to automate the process of identifying eligible cases, updating records, and dismissing and sealing many of them so they do not appear on background checks, but according to data collected from more than three dozen superior courts around the state, many counties are moving slowly.

The delays in clearing drug charges can have dire consequences for those seeking employment, professional licensing, housing, loans and in other instances in which background checks are required. “It creates a permanent underclass," attorney Vonya Quarles, told the Los Angeles Times. "By not purging marijuana records, we’re helping to foster poverty [for Black and brown people]."


Kiera Feldman, investigative reporter at the Los Angeles Times

Web Resources:

The Los Angeles Times: New bill would force courts to clear cannabis convictions faster

The Los Angeles Times: California was supposed to clear cannabis convictions. Tens of thousands are still languishing

The Los Angeles Times: L.A. County D.A. to dismiss 60,000 past marijuana convictions

The Los Angeles Times: Black and Latino renters face eviction, exclusion amid police crackdowns in California

UC Davis Center for Regional Change: When the Smoke Clears - Racial Disparities in California's Marijuana Arrests

The Drug Policy Alliance: It’s Not Legal Yet: Nearly 500,000 Californians Arrested for Marijuana in Last Decade (2016 report)

Malihe Razazan is the senior producer of KALW's daily call-in program, Your Call.
Rose Aguilar has been the host of Your Call since 2006. She became a regular media roundtable guest in 2001. In 2019, the San Francisco Press Club named Your Call the best public affairs program. In 2017, The Nation named it the most valuable local radio show.