(Examiner file photo)

SF first in state to clear and reduce marijuana convictions dating back to 1975

After a pilot project in San Francisco successfully automated the dismissal and reduction of marijuana convictions going back to 1975, the program is now preparing to expand statewide.

District Attorney George Gascon announced Monday that his office has successfully completed a review of all marijuana convictions post 1975 eligible for dismissal and reduction, a full five months ahead of schedule. The announcement makes San Francisco the first county in the state to clear and reduce all eligible marijuana convictions under Proposition 64.

The speedy review of cases was accomplished with the help of automated system designed as a pilot project by Code for America, a San Francisco-based nonprofit.

“There was no question in my mind that we were going to do it, but we also recognized that it was a monumental task,” said Gascon.

Gascon’s office has identified 9,362 eligible convictions to dismiss and seal, of which 8,132 convictions were identified by the pilot project.

Now Code for America is preparing to announce an expansion of their project in the coming weeks with the formation of a pilot cohort comprised of California counties also looking to automate their review and dismissal process for marijuana convictions.

“We have successfully finished this project and will soon be announcing our next set of pilot counties,” said Elizabeth Smith, head of marketing of Code for America.

The program will help sort through a backlog of marijuana convictions in line with Assembly Bill 1793, which requires all counties to complete this process by July 1, 2020.

“We work with bulk data and essentially determine eligibility for thousands of convictions in literally just a few minutes, instead of months and even years,” said Jennifer Pahlka, Code for America founder and director.

Working with the data of all marijuana convictions since 1975 in San Francisco, Code for America created a “cutting-edge criminal justice reform pilot system,” that moved the court from a petition-based process to an expedited automatic process.

All identified cases in San Francisco have been presented to the court and will be dismissed and sealed shortly, according to Gascon.

However, Gascon urged anyone with a marijuana conviction before 1975 to step forward and utilize the original petition-based process because the automated system was limited to their digital database.

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