SF Using Algorithm to Wipe Out Weed Convictions

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on February 26, 2019 2:58 PM

Regardless of how you feel about marijuana legalization generally, we can all recognize that a system that allows weed weddings and pot tourism while it keeps people in prison for behavior that would be legal today is unjust. And unfortunately, not all states have applied new marijuana laws retroactively, meaning yesterday's criminal enterprise is today's cannabiz entrepreneur and one is getting rich where the other got a jail sentence.

But at least San Francisco is trying to change that. The city is using a computer algorithm to snuff out over 9,000 marijuana-related convictions going back three decades.

Cannabis Conviction Code

Code for America is a non-profit aimed at updating government services in the digital age. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón reached out to the group last year to develop software to weed out old weed convictions after California voted to legalize marijuana in 2016. And yesterday, Gascón announced the algorithm identified 9,362 cannabis cases eligible for expungement, dating back to 1975.

"It's incumbent that we, as law enforcement leaders, continue to evolve how we advance fairness and public safety in our respective communities," Gascón said. "I hope that our success with Code for America can act as a catalyst for other leaders looking to engage in similar innovative and out-of-the-box methods to reform and rethink what our criminal justice system looks like." Rather than putting the onus on incarcerated individuals to request judicial review of their convictions, Gascón said his office will present the selected cases to a judge for expungement.

SF was just the first jurisdiction to use technology to target past pot crimes. According to Mashable, Code for America plans to help prosecutors wipe 250,000 convictions nationwide by the end of the year. So hopefully states won't have people sitting behind bars for selling what you can buy while sitting at a bar.

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