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San Francisco Automatically Expunges 8,100 Marijuana Convictions Using Computer Program

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A novel approach to marijuana expungements has helped San Francisco identify more than 8,100 cannabis convictions dating back to 1975 that will soon be automatically cleared, the district attorney鈥檚 office announced on Monday.

That would make San Francisco, which is both a city and county, the first county in the United States to complete an automatic marijuana expungement process. The office had previously expunged the records of 1,230 residents, so the sum total of sealed convictions will be over 9,600.

District Attorney聽George Gasc贸n announced last year that his office would retroactively expunge prior cannabis convictions for individuals who qualify under the state’s cannabis legalization law that voters approved in 2016. That was significant because, as the law was written, the process to get records cleared is petition-based and burdensome.

To get the job done expeditiously,聽Gasc贸n’s office teamed up with the non-profit organization Code for America, which developed an algorithm designed to identify eligible cases and streamline expungements.

“Prosecutors should act to address the inherent unfairness of penalizing people for activity that is no longer illegal,”聽Gasc贸n said in a press release. “Using technology, we have been able to proactively bring greater racial equity and fairness to marijuana legalization in California. I am thrilled to see other counties and states following suit by offering similar relief in their communities. It鈥檚 the right thing to do.”

Fourteen counties across California have partnered with Code for America to utilize its Clear My Record technology, which takes the onus off individuals to submit petitions and requires minimal work from district attorneys offices that choose to adopt it.

“The Clear My Record technology can automatically and securely evaluate eligibility for convictions by reading and interpreting conviction data,” according to a press release from the group. “It can evaluate eligibility for thousands of convictions in just a few minutes.”

In the months since聽Gasc贸n announced that San Francisco would move to automatically expunge convictions for cannabis offenses made legal under state law, multiple municipalities across the country have followed its lead.聽Seattle,聽Oakland, Chicago, Denver, Baltimore and Washington State have all made similar commitments.

And marijuana policy reform advocates are increasingly demanding that expungement provisions be included in legalization legislation.

“Contact with the criminal justice system should not be a life sentence, so we’ve been working to reimagine the record clearance process,”聽Jennifer Pahlka, founder and executive of Code for America, said in the press release. “Our work asks how we can make government work better for the people it serves, and we are honored to partner with DA Gasc贸n’s office to deliver relief to thousands who have been blocked from access to jobs, housing and other opportunities for so long.”

“This new approach, which is both innovative and common sense, changes the scale and speed of justice and has the potential to ignite change across the country,” she said.

Washington Governor Will Pardon People With Marijuana Possession Convictions, He Announces

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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Marijuana Banking Bill Will Get A Full House Floor Vote This Month

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A bipartisan bill to protect banks that service marijuana businesses will get a House floor vote by the end of the month, the office of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) confirmed to Marijuana Moment on Friday.

House leadership announced the decision to Democratic lawmakers at a closed-door meeting on Thursday.

鈥淢r. Hoyer said at the Whip meeting yesterday that he intends to move it this month,鈥 a Hoyer staffer said in an email. 鈥淲e鈥檙e discussing it with Members, but it hasn鈥檛 been scheduled just yet.鈥

Prior to confirmation from Hoyer’s office, four sources initially described the development to Marijuana Moment, with some saying the vote would be made under suspension of the rules鈥攁 procedure that is generally reserved for non-controversial legislation.

Voting on suspension would require two-thirds of the chamber (290 members) to vote in favor of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act in order for it to pass. The bill, which cleared the House Financial Services Committee in March, currently has 206 cosponsors, including 26 Republicans.

No amendments would be allowed to be added on the floor under the suspension process.

Problems could arise if lawmakers aren’t able to rally additional votes from conservative members or if there’s pushback over the strategy from progressive lawmakers, though it is unlikely Democratic leadership would advance the bill if they didn’t believe they have the votes for passage.

While interest in resolving the banking issue is generally bipartisan, it’s within reason to assume that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle might have wanted the opportunity to offer provisions such as extending protections to hemp businesses or adding language promoting social equity policies. That said, it is possible that leadership could file an entirely new piece of legislation that is similar to the SAFE Banking Act but contains modified provisions negotiated with key members and use that as the vehicle for floor action.

Many expected cannabis banking legislation to receive a floor vote before the August recess, but that did not come to fruition.

In any case, the development comes as the Senate Banking Committee is also preparing to hold a vote on marijuana banking legislation, with Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) announcing on Thursday that his panel is “working to try to get a bill ready.” He didn’t offer a timeline, however, other than saying he hoped to advance the legislation by the end of the year.

While sources told Marijuana Moment that Hoyer made his decision to allow cannabis banking vote following an earlier Wednesday meeting on the issue, it is likely that building momentum in the GOP-controlled Senate added to pressure on the House to act so that Democrats wouldn’t be seen as lagging behind Republicans on cannabis reform, an issue the party has sought to take political ownership of.

Following Crapo’s statement on advancing the banking legislation, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), chief sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, told Marijuana Moment that he welcomes the senator’s “commitment to resolve the banking conflicts that have been created by the misalignment in state and federal law on the issue of cannabis.”

鈥淚 remain focused on passing the SAFE Banking Act out of the House and look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate as they take up the SAFE Banking Act or work to develop and pass similar legislation,鈥 he said.

Banking access is largely seen as one of the most achievable pieces of cannabis legislation that stands to pass this Congress. Advocates and reform-minded lawmakers view it as one of the first steps on the path toward ending federal marijuana prohibition.

鈥淲e are seeing the blueprint in action and moving forward on critical legislation to protect state legal cannabis banking,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) told Marijuana Moment, referring to a memo he sent to House leadership last year outlining a committee-by-committee process for passing incremental cannabis bills leading up to major legislation to end federal prohibition. “Earlier this summer, the House passed protections for state and tribal cannabis laws. In the most cannabis friendly Congress in history, we need to keep up this momentum. There is still much to be done.鈥

There has been some disagreement within advocacy circles about whether it’s prudent to pass legislation viewed as primarily favorable to the industry before advancing comprehensive legislation that deschedules cannabis and takes steps to repair the harms of prohibition enforcement.

鈥淚t is our hope that after the successful passage of the SAFE Banking Act in the House, we will be able to advance legislation that ends the federal criminalization of cannabis once and for all,鈥 Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment. 鈥淣ow is our time to demonstrate that marijuana law reform is both good policy and good politics.鈥

鈥淲e will not stop until otherwise law-abiding Americans are no longer discriminated against or criminalized due to the past or future choice to consume cannabis,鈥 he said.

Neal Levine, CEO of the Cannabis Trade Federation, told Marijuana Moment that the group is 鈥渄elighted that the U.S. House of Representatives is on the brink of passing a landmark piece of cannabis policy legislation that modernizes our antiquated banking laws to reflect the will of the people.鈥

鈥淭his is welcomed and long overdue news for the over 200,000 employees that work in the industry, cannabis businesses, and for public safety in the communities in which we operate,鈥 he said. 鈥淥nce the SAFE Banking Act passes the U.S. House, we call on the U.S. Senate to move quickly to protect our businesses and our workers.鈥

Pressure has been building all year from stakeholders and policymakers alike to get the legislation passed. Endorsements aren鈥檛 just coming from reform groups, either; 50 state banking associations, the National Association of State Treasurers, the top financial regulators of 25 states, a majority of state attorneys general and bipartisan governors of 20 states have also voiced support for the SAFE Banking Act.

Earlier this month, the head of the American Bankers Association predicted that the bill would be passed in the House 鈥渁s early as September.鈥

GOP Senate Chair Says He Plans Marijuana Banking Vote

This story was updated to add comment from Perlmutter and Hoyer鈥檚 office.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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New ‘Marijuana 1-to-3 Act’ Would Reclassify Cannabis Under Federal Law

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Another bill to reschedule marijuana was filed in Congress on Thursday.

Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) introduced the legislation, which is titled the “Marijuana 1-to-3 Act.” True to its name, the bill would simply require the attorney general to move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act, with the aim of increasing research on the drug’s effects.

鈥淎s marijuana is legalized for medical and recreational use across the United States, it is important that we study the effects of the substance and the potential impacts it can have on various populations,鈥 Steube said in a press release. 鈥淏y rescheduling marijuana from a schedule I controlled substance to a schedule III controlled substance, the opportunities for research and study are drastically expanded.

“With this rescheduling, researchers can now access federal funds to research this substance and determine its medical value,” he said.

The press release came hours after a bipartisan pair of lawmakers introduced separate legislation to reschedule marijuana, also to Schedule III.

That bill contained additional provisions that would require federal agencies to develop research agendas for marijuana within one year of its enactment and also establish a system whereby universities could be designated as 鈥淐enters of Excellence in Cannabis Research鈥 if they conducted comprehensive studies on issues related to marijuana.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who is a sponsor of the broader research bill, is also cosponsoring Steube’s more focused rescheduling proposal.

It’s not clear why Steube chose to file his own reclassification bill or whether the other legislation’s additional provisions were a factor.

The congressman’s two-page bill states that “the Attorney General of the United States shall, by order not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of this section, transfer marijuana…from schedule I of such Act to schedule III of such Act.”

“We hear every day about the positive health benefits of marijuana,鈥 Steube said. “Whether it鈥檚 young children with seizure disorders, or veterans suffering from chronic pain, it is clear that there are medical benefits to marijuana and I think it鈥檚 time we remove the bureaucratic red tape that prevents us from thoroughly studying this substance.”

While he emphasized that the intent of his legislation is to encourage research into marijuana, placing cannabis in Schedule III would also have implications for marijuana businesses, who are currently ineligible for federal tax deductions under an Internal Revenue Code section that applies to anyone “trafficking in controlled substances” in Schedule I or II.

Read the full text of the bill below:聽

Marijuana 1-to-3[1] by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Former Anti-Legalization Clinton Cabinet Official Files Marijuana Reclassification Bill In Congress

Photo by Ndispensable.

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GOP Senate Chair Says He Plans Marijuana Banking Vote

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The Republican chair of the Senate Banking Committee said on Thursday that his panel will hold a vote on legislation allowing banks to service state-legal marijuana businesses this year.

Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) told Politico that while he doesn鈥檛 support ending federal cannabis prohibition, his committee will take up the industry鈥檚 banking issues, which was the subject of a hearing the panel held in July. Because marijuana remains federally illegal, many financial institutions remain wary of taking on cannabis business clients鈥攆orcing them to operate on a cash-only basis鈥攁nd there鈥檚 a growing bipartisan call to resolve the problem.

鈥淲e鈥檙e working to try to get a bill ready,鈥 the senator said. “I’m looking to see whether we can thread the needle.”

Legislation to provide financial services to marijuana businesses鈥攖he Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act鈥攁lready exists and was approved by the House Financial Services Committee in March. That bill has 206 cosponsors, including 26 Republicans. The companion Senate bill has nearly a third of the chamber signed on.

It鈥檚 not clear what changes Crapo is hoping for, but there鈥檚 been talk of adding hemp-specific banking protections, or including language to prevent activities such as Operation Choke Point, an Obama-era policy that conservatives view as biased against certain industries such as gun manufacturers, in order to bolster the proposal鈥檚 GOP appeal.

This development comes as Congress returns from a summer recess. Cannabis reform advocates hoped that the Democratic-controlled House would put the SAFE Act to a vote before August, but that window passed.

There have been renewed rumors that House leadership is planning to schedule a vote on the SAFE Act soon, but some dispute has broken out among cannabis reform supporters about the notion of passing a bill seen as industry-focused prior to moving broader legislation to deschedule marijuana and repair the harms of past prohibition enforcement.

Many supporters of more far-reaching moves have zeroed in on a bill House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) filed, but it’s unclear when that legislation would be able to see a markup by the panel, which for now is focused on issues such as gun reform and the prospect of impeachment proceedings.

If the Republican-controlled Senate were to pass marijuana banking legislation soon, it could increase political pressure on House majority Democrats to follow suit lest they be seen as lagging on an issue on which their party has increasingly sought to lead.

Don Murphy, federal policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment that polling in Crapo’s home state of Idaho鈥攐ne of only three states that currently have no legal cannabis laws on the books鈥攕hows that voters in the state support cannabis reform and that 鈥渋t appears Chairman Crapo is seeing similar results.鈥

“Apparently MPP hasn鈥檛 done the only marijuana poll in Idaho recently,” he said. “Idaho voters support marijuana policy reform and with his support of the SAFE Act the Senator is moving in their direction. What took years to develop could end up in a photo finish as each chamber attempts to beat the other to a floor vote. If true, this is a very good news.”

Idaho activists are working to place a medical cannabis measure on the state’s 2020 ballot.

While it鈥檚 not clear Crapo that endorses the SAFE Act as written or that he would use an amended version of the existing bill as the vehicle to advance the issue, he鈥檚 made several statements indicating that he鈥檚 interested in a legislative fix on cannabis banking.

“We may craft our own bill or we may work with them to craft any amended legislation,” he told Politico.

鈥淚t would be terrific for the Senate Banking Committee to hold a markup on The Safe Banking Act, which we believe would result in a favorable bipartisan vote,鈥 NORML Political Director Justin Strekal told Marijuana Moment. 鈥淣ow more than ever, members of Congress spanning all types of geographic and political diversity recognize the need to amend existing law and move us towards ending federal prohibition.鈥

Crapo told Politico that he鈥檚 particularly interested in passing cannabis banking reform legislation because of the negative impact of the ban on ancillary businesses like plumbing and hardware companies that work with such businesses but don鈥檛 deal directly with marijuana.

The head of the American Bankers Association (ABA) predicted last week that the House would vote on the legislation before October.

鈥淭HIS is a very important development- thank you [Sen. Crapo] for helping advance this legislation that will allow people and businesses access to the banking sector in states that have legalized cannabis and address the state/federal law inconsistency,鈥 he wrote in response to the senator鈥檚 latest comments.

Politically, passing the banking bill in the Senate could give Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), its chief GOP cosponsor, a much-needed win heading toward next year鈥檚 election. Democratic candidates, including former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) are targeting the seat, and Gardner has made much of his work to support the state鈥檚 legal cannabis market.

DEA Wants 3.2 Million Grams Of Marijuana Legally Grown In 2020

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