Marijuana Laws

Decriminalizing Marijuana in Los Angeles County

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

On Tuesday, Los Angeles County Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis introduced a read-in motion that seeks to streamline the resentencing process for people with prior marijuana convictions eligible for relief now that recreational cannabis use is legal in California. The motion also aims to reduce racial disparities in marijuana-related arrests that occur post-legalization.

While overall marijuana arrests have plummeted in states like Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon—where recreational marijuana use has been legal for several years—racial disparities remain, according to a report from Drug Policy Alliance. People of color are still more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than their white counterparts, despite the fact that cannabis is used and sold at similar rates across racial groups, according to the report. For example, in Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, weed-related arrests among white people dropped 51 percent between 2012 and 2014. During those same years, arrests of Latinx and black people only fell 33 percent and 25 percent, respectively. And in Washington, black people are arrested at double the rate of other racial groups. In the nation’s capital, people who are black are 11 times more likely to be arrested for using marijuana in public than their white counterparts, according to the report.

“Strategies and data tracking are required to prevent the disparate enforcement that has been seen in other jurisdictions post-legalization,” the supervisors’ motion states.

The motion calls for the LA County Office of Cannabis Management, in collaboration with other relevant county departments to identify data tracking tools that will help “measure and prevent disproportionate enforcement of cannabis-related offenses.”

California’s voter-approved Proposition 64 also allows people with prior eligible marijuana convictions to petition the courts to have their crimes reclassified or resentenced (if they are currently incarcerated or on probation for a marijuana offense). “It is estimated that about one million people in California, and potentially hundreds of thousands of County residents, may qualify for relief,” the motion states.

Yet the legal relief process can be daunting, and many LA residents may not even know that they are eligible, according to the supervisors.

In early January, CA Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) introduced AB 1793, a bill that would automatically reclassify or expunge marijuana-related convictions from eligible Californians’ records, rather than require them to submit petitions for the changes to occur.

At the local level, on January 31, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced that his office would automatically review and reclassify nearly 5,000 felony convictions and more than 3,000 misdemeanors dating back to 1975.

“While this relief is already available pursuant to Proposition 64 for anyone with a conviction, it requires that they know it is available and to retain an attorney to file the expungement paperwork,” the DA said.

Gascón reportedly took action after just a handful of people in San Francisco applied for relief.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office and Public Defender’s Office have also teamed up to take on marijuana resentencing, and have found approximately 55 people who were either incarcerated or on parole for Prop. 57-eligible convictions, as well as around 4,000 other old cases to review, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Los Angeles County will not be following suit. LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said that LA residents will have to file their own petitions “rather than wait for [the DA’s Office] to go through tens of thousands of case files.” (San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos told the Victorville Daily Press that his office will “absolutely not” automatically reclassify marijuana offenses, either.)

Ridley-Thomas and Solis’s motion aims to lift some of that burden. The motion calls on the Office of Cannabis Management to calculate an estimate of the total number of juveniles and adults who are eligible for relief under Prop. 64, and to develop strategies that “remove barriers to legal relief and provide resentencing
and reclassification in a timely, cost-effective and accessible manner to these individuals, including youth with convictions eligible for expungement.” The motion also calls for these strategies to be paired with reentry and rehabilitation services to help combat the “social and economic impact” of marijuana criminalization.

“In cannabis policy, we in Los Angeles County have prioritized public health and health equity, and we are working to ensure that our communities are not further negatively impacted by commercialization,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “We would be remiss and negligent if we do not also take a strong step to reduce the legal, social and economic disparities that have been caused by the so-called ‘War on Drugs.’”

The motion is scheduled for a vote on February 13.


This story has been updated to include information about resentencing in San Diego and San Bernardino Counties.

24 Comments

  • Taylor, this story actually includes some fairly interesting stats regarding the decriminalization of marijuana and how people of color are still being arrested in larger numbers . Of course you do what you always do ,which is imply it’s all simply racism. It doesn’t take too much imagination to realize there are probably many factors. This is pretty lazy and poor reporting. Perhaps you could expand your horizons, I’m sure it will make you a better reporter. The stuff you’re putting out is one sided and boring, heck give me the title and I can predict what you’ll write, before you even write it. (That’s not good)

    • Journalism 1A:

      1. A bylined story (the writer’s name affixed to the story) is biased, and the bias can come from the writer, the writer’s boss, or some unseen third party.

      2. An un-bylined story is supposed to be–these days one never knows–unbiased, and these stories are usually found in the wire services like Reuters.

      Nowadays there is what is called “Advocacy Journalism,” and these stories, too, are bylined.

      With “Advocacy Journalism” the intent is not to report but to sway thinking in a certain direction.

      Does THAT picture look familiar?

  • Maj. Kong, the piece states, “people of color are still more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than their white counterparts, despite the fact that cannabis is used and sold at similar rates across racial groups, according to the report.” Please enlighten us with your wisdom and provide us with what you think explains this. Or, do you believe the report just got it wrong and black people aren’t arrested more and/or blacks and whites do not use/sell marijuana at about the same rates.
    And, I am also curious as to why you always whine and complain about this site, yet like a broken and battered wife you keep coming back for more. Seriously, enlighten me.

  • Explain to me CF why you don’t care a thing about the problems truly facing Blacks only in bashing law enforcement who deal with their over representation in the criminal justice system. Want to debate that half-wit just bring it. This is a meaningless article. Why doesn’t she write on the fact more cops were gunned down by POC than Whites last year or that more cops were shot last year than the year before, though thankfully less died. Way more interesting than weed arrests in my view but doesn’t fit their agenda does it? Course they should love them, not like they haven’t got one or two reasons but still the hate runs deep here.

  • Cf you seem to be stuck in the same cognitive bubble Taylor is. I thought one of the most interesting points of the story was that although recreational use of marijuana in several states has been decriminalized and arrests across all races are significantly down, people of color are still being arrested at a much higher rate than whites for marijuana related offenses. What are these “marijuana related offenses?” If these people are being arrested for sales (the story doesn’t say) are POC more likely to be involved in sales?If not , are POC more likely to be involved in street sales? Are POC more likely to use marijuana in public places? Since blacks are over represented in several criminal categories ,do these numbers fall in line with the mean? A lot of questions unanswered, a little more complex than simply crying racism.

    That’s why I’m here cf to point this stuff out, if you really believe the nonsense you spew (which I doubt) I suggest you find a right wing blog and go to work. On this site you’re just playing the roll of hysterical sycophant.

  • And we just lost our 8th officer to gunfire this year and last year that didn’t happen until March 18th. Weed stories with no substance are more important. The war on cops is not going away, it is intensifying.

    • And this is a WLA first where you, surefire, didn’t put your racist rants every time a cop is killed by a black man, but mum from you so far this year. Any murder of a cop is bad, regardless of who was responsible for their death. Your silence speak volumes.

      • Chicago ,I guess you’re now cf-3 . Celeste is Cf-1 cf is cf-2 so that makes you cf-3. Well anyways ,cf-3 ,just stick to spell checking because no one knows what the heck you’re talking about otherwise. This might shock you but no one is keeping track of whatever battles you imagine you won in the comment section 2 years ago.

  • The sad fact is this: Legalizing marijuana is bad for everyone. The arrest will remain low because basically officers will not want to do the paperwork for a BS arrest. Now that it is legal, the officers should be able to issue a citation for the violation. On each additional citation, raise the fine. I personally never made arresting someone for marijuana a high priority, unless they possessed a large amount. Please don’t make this a black and white or brown thing, that is totally crap.

  • Look Reg, two more cops killed today and I’ve posted on their murders more than once and you know it. Caught you in enough lies in the past, about your brother remember? Celeste is a sham when it comes to cops being killed are you kidding me, a person who should write so much more about it and refuses to because it would destroy the false narrative she, you and all the weaklings like you play and put out day after day. The last useless cop hater in power and his cop hating AG’s opened the flood gates to what’s going on now and you punks just pay it a little bit of lip service. You that have never done one honorable thing compared to those doing the heavy lifting day after day can only yap and play the race card. F.O. Reg, have always owned you still do no matter what you call yourself.

  • Glad to see that few on this site using their 1st Amendment even with reckless abandonment. Those with personal issues should take it to Facebook. For those who despise this site or any other site, then go away or start you own column. I can understand the venting and frustration of many but geez! If it’s that serious then exchange emails and meet in a parking lot.

  • Sure Fire, please stop whining. Its unbecoming an officer. If you want to see posts or blogs about officers shot, why do you not start your own blog? Since when does Celeste or anyone else have to write what you want. And, since you care so much about cops, share your thoughts on that mustachioed cowboy cop killer cop Lyga, who happened to be one of your ilk. On which side did you fall on that one? The white office that killed the black officer, I suspect. Perhaps, you, too, aren’t too fond of ewoks.

    Maj. Kong – You ask, “are POC more likely to be involved in sales?” Did you not read the article? The piece states, “sold at similar rates across racial groups…” I can understand why you did so badly on the reading comprehension part of the test. I agree that these are more complex issues than just blaming racism. The problem is that you do not think race is a factor. You would rather believe Blacks are either inferior as a race or are culturally inferior. To you, that is what explains the difference in outcomes across the board. Look, I know Maj. Kong is not your name, and no one knows who you are or even cares, why not admit you hate, or at least dislike, blacks and that you’ve thrown the N-word around a few times when you stopped black kids or with your partner when referring to blacks. It will be like therapy and make you feel better. And, I am on a right wing blog-this one. Seems like all the commentators are racis rednecks, probably wearing the hood as they hit the keyboard, with Fox playing in the background, and some good ‘ol country from Johnny Rebel playing on the cassette deck of the pick-up.

  • cf-2 The only sentence in your comment that isn’t an insult is the one where you admit I’m right. Next time just write “ I agree there are more complex issues than just blaming racism”. The hysterical rant just makes you look unstable, kind of sad really.

  • @ CF,
    The truth is, that not of your detractors can deny that they’ve never used the N word, in or out of uniform period. Their denial taints any dialogue from amongst them. I love the way that they flip the script. Myself and countless others including laymen law enforcement to local government are shaking their head. Incredible.

  • Hey CF I’m talking about today, now, five officers in one week and I’ve had a blog for years. Sorry, not one you’d ever guess was mine, in fact never see this moniker on it. F.O.

  • Anonymous, calling a law enforcement officer a hog may be taken as offensive or anti-cop by Maj. Kong, Sure Fire and company. A hog is nothing more than a fat pig.

    Sure Fire, you mean this week, not today or in one day. And, what is your point. Do you know how many security guards were killed today? How about how many loggers, or drivers? Or, how many people were killed by police this week? I guess, as the saying goes, a cop in the hand is worth ten blacks in the bush. Or, what is that you say?

    Maj. Kong, I agree there are more complex issues than just blaming racism. Feel better?

    • So as not to offend credible Police Officers,
      Lyga……..Another “Blow-Hard” who was reduced to ashes.
      LAPD is much better without him.

    • How many of those occupations are engaged in battles with armed suspects like the police commander murdered in Chicago today you cop hating piece of dung? Add them up please. Oh and this many we’re gunned down until April last year so sit down and STFU.

  • CF: You still here….I heard you got deported or moved to San Francisco (sanctuary City). Remember per our last conversation….the 14th amendment does not cover children born her of parents in the country illegally. It only covers children of parents that have legal status. I know….facts are hard to deal with….keep up the good work….I appreciate the effort that goes into ur trolling!

  • Proposition 64 says someone with a conviction for simple possession can have that record erased. Felony convictions for possession or sales can be reduced to misdemeanors, as long as the person doesn’t have a violent background, multiple convictions or a conviction for selling to minors. Gascón said he decided to take action because only 23 petitions for Proposition 64 expungement or resentencing had been filed in San Francisco since the initiative passed.

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