Prop 64: What you can do to have marijuana charges expunged in California

Blog Post

Even in light of the recent developments in the Justice Department, background check applicants can likely still look forward to good news if they’ve previously had a minor drug offense in California. As of January 1st, 2018, Proposition 64 (The Adult Use of Marijuana Act) goes into effect.

You’ve probably heard that Prop. 64 reduces restrictions on the sale and possession of marijuana in California and makes recreational marijuana use legal. But what many people don’t know is that it also allows people who’ve been convicted of marijuana-related crimes to have those records expunged or reduced. In other words, you may be able to get the crimes dismissed from your record.

If you’ve been affected by marijuana laws, you’re not alone. According to the DPA, nearly 500,000 people were arrested for marijuana-related crimes in California between 2006 and 2015. Many of these arrests disproportionately targeted underrepresented communities, so Prop. 64 is also a step forward for equal opportunities in California.

Cases will likely be up for interpretation, but the offenses that are most likely to be expunged (since they are now permitted by Prop. 64) are possession, processing, transporting, purchasing, obtaining, or giving to another adult, of:

  • One ounce or less of marijuana
  • Eight grams or less of concentrated cannabis
  • Six or fewer living marijuana plants
  • Marijuana accessories

Certain marijuana felonies can also be reduced to misdemeanors, as long as you were 18 years or older:

  • Possession of more than 28.5 grams of marijuana, or more than four grams of concentrated cannabis
  • Planting, cultivating, harvesting, drying, or processing more than six marijuana plants
  • Possession of marijuana for sale
  • Transporting, importing, selling, furnishing, administering, or giving away 28.5 grams of marijuana or more

How do you get started? In most cases, you’ll need to apply for reduction or expungement by filing a petition in the court where you were convicted. A public defender may be able to help you with the process, or a lawyer in your area who specializes in “restorative justice.”

If you’re not sure what is actually on your criminal record, you can sign up to view your own free background check at Better Future. You can always request to see a background check run by an employer on your behalf as well. Another way to see your record is to go to the court in person, or mail a Records Request Form to the court to receive a copy of your records.

Some things you will want to know before you begin the process:

  • What is your case number — sometimes called “docket number”?
  • What was your date of conviction — which is the date of your plea, verdict, or finding of guilt?
  • What is the code name and section number you were convicted of violating?
  • Was there a verdict or did you enter a plea?  If you entered a plea, was it “guilty” or “no contest” (also called “nolo contendere”)?
  • Were you ordered to serve any time on probation (either formal or informal probation, since they are treated the same in your record)? If so, for how long?
  • Were you ordered to pay any fines, restitution, or reimbursement?
  • If you were sentenced to state prison, which one?
  • If you were sentenced to state prison, on what date were you released?
  • If you were released on parole, on what date?

Getting the records expunged or reduced can make it easier for you to clear a background check and gain meaningful employment.


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