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Two major California counties announced April 1, 2019, that they will be using an algorithm developed by civic service technology advocacy group Code for America to automate the expungements of people with prior marijuana convictions.

The district attorneys of Los Angeles and San Joaquin counties said at a press conference that while the state's voter-approved measure to legalize cannabis for adult use had the right intentions by providing for expungements, the process to petition the courts is exceedingly complicated and relies too heavily on the individuals themselves to clear their records.

“We expected a tsunami of petitions, but frankly, very few people took the legal action required to clear their records of cannabis convictions,” said Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey. “We quickly learned that the process approved by the voters was too cumbersome for most people that the law sought to help.”

According to Code for America, there are about 54,000 cannabis convictions between the two counties that are eligible for expungement. With more than 10 million residents, Los Angeles County is the most populous in the U.S. San Joaquin County in Northern California has nearly 750,000 residents; Stockton is its largest city and county seat.

The organization's Clear My Record technology will enable local governments to expedite those expungements with the use of an algorithm that identifies eligible cases and automatically files the forms required to get a record cleared.

San Francisco County successfully expunged the records for more than 8,100 marijuana convictions with the help of Code for America's technology, District Attorney George Gascón announced in February 2019.

“This tool is revolutionary. It is changing the way that we do business, but more importantly, it's giving people a tool — a pathway to success,” said San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar. “It's empowering those who we took the power from and giving them that opportunity to create a solid journey going forward. This is nothing short of amazing.”

The partnership with Code for America could prove useful to counties across California, following the state's enactment of a law in 2018 that requires prosecutors to affirmatively review marijuana convictions that may be eligible for expungement by July 1, 2020.

Advocates are pushing for more states to include automatic expungements in legalization legislation, arguing that it's a key component of restorative justice that's necessary to right the wrongs of the war on drugs.

“In the digital age, automatic record clearance is just common sense,” Jennifer Pahlka, executive director of Code for America, said in a press release. “When we do this right, we show that government can make good on its promises, especially for the hundreds of thousands who have been denied jobs, housing, and other opportunities despite the passage of laws intended to provide relief.”

“Clear My Record changes the scale and speed of justice and has the potential to ignite change across the state and the nation,” she said.


This article has been republished from Marijuana Moment under a content syndication agreement. Read the original article here.

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