The medical marijuana movement as we know it began in California, which first voted in favor of legalizing it way back in 1996. It was a different time: Tupac had just died, with Biggie soon to follow, and no one outside of Texas and Chicago had even heard of George W. Bush or Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton was still an embattled FLOTUS, struggling to deflect criticism of her shady financial deals and shadier suicided colleagues; the idea of her ever being anything more than perhaps a guest star on Designing Women was the stuff of stoner fantasia.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump was still on his second wife and his fourth bankruptcy. The economy was booming, and everyone thought we could ride that plateau well into the 21st century. But that year, some guy named Osama bin Laden moved his terrorist organization to Afghanistan, and within five years, the entire world would be changed forever.
By the time the towers fell in 2001 (never forget!), Proposition 215 had already been struck down by the same Supreme Court that awarded Bush the 2000 election, using the same logic teased now by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. They were having quite the losing streak, to say the least, and the impact of their decisions can still be felt, especially if you’re one of the thousands of Californians who were saddled with marijuana convictions during the last two decades. We’ve noted here before that legislation has been introduced to clear such convictions on the federal level and, as predicted, that’s opened the door for states to begin moving in that direction on their own, starting with California.
Under Proposition 64, which legalized marijuana in the Golden State in November 2016, citizens can petition a judge to have their previous pot convictions reduced or expunged outright.
Unfortunately, we all know how legal fees can add up, so most people in need of relief can’t afford to seek it. (My lawyer usually works pro bono, thank goodness, due to the sheer novelty of the trouble I get myself into. I’m kidding, maybe.) District attorneys in San Francisco and San Diego decided to cut out the middleman and start clearing records on their own, turning up some 12,300 possible cases between them.
Though still in its infancy, this concept already has serious legs. Colorado copied the proposal just months after it passed in Cali, and Oregon has had something similar in full effect since 2015. Other counties in The Land of Milk & Honey have also begun to move on this, though somewhat slower. You’ll see this trend continue in other states; if I were to wager, I’d say New Jersey’s next. Florida? NEVER.
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