San Francisco District Attorney to throw out thousands of marijuana cases

San Francisco's District Attorney on Wednesday said he will throw out thousands of marijuana cases, retroactively, now that recreational cannabis is legal in the state of California.

At a news conference, George Gascón said he would expunge or reduce more than 3,000 misdemeanor and felony convictions dating back to 1975. He said he will also review and re-sentence thousands of felony marijuana cases.

"The process will take no hearings," Gascon said. "People will not have to hire attorneys. They will never have to come to our courts. We believe it's the right thing to do and the just thing to do."

The move will benefit anyone whose marijuana convictions have left a shadow over them, and whose prior criminal histories likely hurt their chances in finding jobs and getting government benefits. The move will also predominantly help people of color, who have disproportionately been affected by drug arrests.

:Those people that have been most adversely affected by the war on drugs, get a little bit of a break," said supervisor Malia Cohen, "from a system that has been systematically targeting African American, Latino, Pacific Islanders since the '80's."

Proposition 64, which state voters passed in November 2016, legalized the recreational use of marijuana in California for those 21 and older and permitted the possession up to one ounce of cannabis. The legislation also allows those with past marijuana convictions that would have been lesser crimes — or no crime at all — under Prop. 64 to petition a court to recall or dismiss their cases.

Rather than leaving it up to individuals to petition the courts — which is time-consuming and can cost hundreds of dollars in attorney fees — Gascón said San Francisco prosecutors will review and wipe out convictions en masse.