California's Proposition 64—in addition to legalizing recreational marijuana—allows people convicted of marijuana-related crimes in the past to petition for their convictions to be reduced, dismissed, or expunged, the Los Angeles Times reports. But over the past year in San Francisco, only 23 people did so. "So instead of waiting for the community to take action, we're taking action for the community," San Francisco district attorney George Gascón said Wednesday. The city will be dismissing and sealing over 3,000 misdemeanor convictions and reviewing and possibly re-sentencing nearly 5,000 felony convictions dating back to 1975. By doing this, Gascón said San Francisco can keep people from losing out on jobs or housing because of past activity that is now legal.
"While drug policy on the federal level is going backwards, San Francisco is once again taking the lead to undo the damage that this country's disastrous, failed drug war has had on our nation and on communities of color in particular," Gascón said. A study found African Americans are four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in San Francisco, the San Francisco Chronicle
reports. The president of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP calls Gascón's announcement "a step toward setting black people free to live in the community, to have jobs, to have health care, to have a decent education." According to the AP
, the Drug Policy Alliance estimates that statewide only 5% of people eligible to have their marijuana convictions reduced, dismissed, or expunged have filed a petition, which can be expensive and confusing.