"Clear My Record" Project To Help Expunge 250,000 Marijuana Convictions

By Victoria Kim 06/13/18

San Francisco is partnering with tech-nonprofit Code for America to expedite the difficult expungement process. 

person smoking marijuana

A new initiative aims to speed up the process of expunging a marijuana conviction from a person’s criminal record, with the ambitious goal of clearing 250,000 marijuana convictions by 2019.

It’s only right. Nine states and Washington, D.C. have legalized marijuana for adult use, while 29 states and D.C. allow the medical use of marijuana. Marijuana has already yielded a booming multibillion-dollar industry, with no sign of slowing down.

Yet, a marijuana conviction can still be a barrier to employment, housing and other benefits.

“In a human way, when you see the problem up close it becomes a moral imperative to solve it,” said Jennifer Pahlka, founder and executive director of Code for America.

In January, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced that his office will be retroactively applying Proposition 64—the law that made cannabis legal in California for adult use—to thousands of misdemeanor and felony convictions dating back to 1975.

Specifically, the DA’s office said it would review, recall and resentence “up to 4,940 felony marijuana convictions and dismiss and seal 3,038 misdemeanors” which were sentenced prior to cannabis legalization in California.

The initiative will be helped by the Clear My Record program, a project of Code for America, a non-profit organization that uses technology to tackle local issues by teaming up with state and city governments.

Clear My Record recognizes that the process of expunging one’s low-level and non-violent marijuana conviction “is a very bad one”—bogged down by paperwork, the cost of hiring legal support, and a whole lot of waiting, according to Pahlka.

Hoping to facilitate this process, Clear My Record has simplified the application process for people seeking expungement with the help of technology. Its goal is to expand the program and ultimately clear 250,000 marijuana convictions by 2019.

“That number is an estimate assuming we get a certain number of counties to come onboard showing the same sort of leadership that DA Gascón has shown,” said Pahlka, according to Mashable. “And I would think it’s a high likelihood. It’s ambitious and I’m excited about it. I also don’t want to stop there.”

The ultimate goal is to right the wrongs of the drug war. “While drug policy on the federal level is going backward, San Francisco is once again taking the lead to undo the damage that this country’s disastrous, failed drug war has had on our nation and on communities of color in particular,” said Gascón in his January statement. “So instead of waiting for the community to take action, we’re taking action for the community.”

Learn how Clear My Record works.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr