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Frederick R. Remer
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Eliminating old convictions under new marijuana law

When California legalized marijuana in 2016, it also provided a pathway for thousands of people to clear marijuana-related criminal convictions from their records. The provision applies to people who were convicted only of certain minor offenses that are no longer considered crimes under the new law, and allows them to retroactively eliminate some convictions and reduce sentences for others.

However, it's not as easy as it might look. The state doesn't have an easy way of looking through its own court records to find which convictions qualify, nor does it have a good system for contacting all the people who could be affected. The convictions occurred mostly in county courts, and each county has its own system of keeping criminal records.

Some private companies and nonprofits have come forward to help California with the technology to digitally sift through records, but the process is far from complete. So far, these efforts have affected only a handful of California counties. Prosecutors have only until next July 20 to review marijuana cases that are eligible under the new law.

Eliminating an old conviction from one's record can be a big help. Convictions often come up in background checks when people are looking for a job or an apartment, or applying for loans. The process under the marijuana law provides people with old convictions with a clearer path as they seek to rebuild their lives. However, the process also takes a lot of paperwork and careful preparation. It is important to talk to a criminal defense attorney about how the process works.

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