To Expunge Pot Convictions, San Francisco Turns to Tech

San Francisco is one of many jurisdictions that will begin automatically expunging marijuana convictions following the passage of Proposition 64. But it’s how the county will go about it that is piquing everyone’s interest today.

The San Francisco district attorney’s office will take a high-tech approach to finding and wiping out certain felony marijuana convictions in a pioneering effort by city prosecutors to retroactively apply the state’s new legal marijuana laws.

District Attorney George Gascón on Tuesday announced a partnership with Code for America — a nonprofit with the goal of making government more efficient — to begin using a computer-based algorithm to take on the complicated job of identifying felony marijuana convictions that are eligible for reclassification.

The use of a computer algorithm could greatly simplify a complex process. If it’s successful, it could also be used in counties like Los Angeles which was hesitant to follow suit due to the large number of past convictions on file.

One of the lesser-known facets of California’s marijuana legalization measure was the ability to reduce or expunge past convictions related to pot. Relatively few people have taken advantage of this opportunity. Counties like San Francisco now say they’ll take it upon themselves and clean the records even without a request.

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