Algorithm Will Help San Francisco DA Wipe out Cannabis Convictions

(HaizhanZheng/iStock)

The San Francisco district attorney’s office is partnering with the nonprofit Code for America to proactively wipe out thousands of marijuana convictions using a computer algorithm.

District Attorney George Gascon said in a statement Tuesday the partnership will help prosecutors identify those that are eligible under California’s revised marijuana laws.

Gascon in January announced his office would dismiss and seal more than 3,000 misdemeanor marijuana convictions dating back to 1975 after voters approved Proposition 64 legalizing recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. A handful of other jurisdictions in legal cannabis states have taken similar measures to proactively identify and expunge convictions, though in many areas individuals are responsible for petitioning the court on their own for relief.

RELATED STORY
California Scrambles to Speed Sluggish Expungement Process

Code for America will use its algorithm to search through San Francisco’s nearly 5,000 felony cases and identify those that are eligible, which will then be reviewed by a prosecutor and submitted to the court. Gascon said the plan will require “no action” from individuals with convictions and “minimal” staff time within his office.

According to a press release from the nonprofit Code for America, 962 motions to dismiss a misdemeanor marijuana conviction have been prepared by the DA’s office, 528 have been submitted to the San Francisco Superior Court, and 428 have been granted as of Monday. But the company says that felony convictions take much more time to process, as they require an analysis of rap sheets in order to determine eligibility.

On Twitter Tuesday, Gascon noted that prosecutors in jurisdictions “from Seattle to Philadelphia” have pledged to reduce or expunge hundreds of thousands of cannabis convictions. “Still,” he added, “many DAs that want to provide this relief have cited resource constraints as inhibiting their ability to join this commonsense effort.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.