With the passage of Proposition 64, Californians took a major step toward ending the war on drugs and repairing some of the damage inflicted on people's lives by marijuana prohibition.
Although the most serious marijuana-related crimes, such as providing it to minors or attempting to smuggle pot across state lines, remain felonies under Proposition 64, most marijuana-related misdemeanors and felonies have been reduced or altogether eliminated. These sweeping reductions in criminal penalties are retroactive, meaning past convictions for marijuana offenses reduced or eliminated under Proposition 64 can be reclassified on criminal records through the courts for free.
The Drug Policy Alliance is working at all levels to ensure that as many people as possible obtain relief under Proposition 64. To that end, we have developed a new website, Myprop64.org, to serve as the hub for information on implementation of the law. Visitors can find specific steps to reclassify marijuana-related convictions, as well as links to the appropriate reclassification forms, free legal clinics and contact information for local courts and public defenders' offices.
Individuals with prior marijuana convictions on their record, who are no longer in the criminal justice system, can apply to the court where they were convicted to have an offense reclassified as a misdemeanor, infraction or have it dismissed, no matter how old the conviction.
In general, the process for reclassification will not involve a hearing, but you should work with a legal clinic, lawyer or public defender to assist with the process.
After submitting your forms, the court may proceed without a hearing. In most counties, you will be notified by mail once the superior court has ordered and then recorded the reclassification. Some counties may require that you return to court to learn the status of your application. However, if there is a dispute and your application is denied, you will be entitled to a hearing.
Proposition 64 is a step toward undoing damage caused by the draconian and punitive policies born out of the war on drugs. By reducing and removing the criminal penalties for marijuana offenses, we are simultaneously reducing the barriers to employment and housing.
Moreover, we are creating opportunities for second chances by investing hundreds of millions of dollars of marijuana tax and licensing revenue into low-income communities that have been most negatively affected by the war on drugs.
Eunisses Hernandez is a policy associate at the Drug Policy Alliance. Cat Packer is a policy coordinator at the Drug Policy Alliance.