California voters legalized cannabis on November 8, however, most are unaware that some small-time criminals could get their records erased. Thousands of Californians with pending cannabis charges are seeing their cases being reduced or dropped altogether.
Phillips owns a dispensary in Long Beach as well as several cannabis farms. Last June, Chris Phillips faced five felony counts with possible jail time for illegally growing cannabis at his home in Livermore, California. Phillips’ attorney Bill Panzer managed to knock down Phillip’s charges to a single misdemeanor charge.
Losing the felony charges prompted Phillips to have a “sigh of relief.” “I have four kids,” Phillips said. “The police put assault rifles in their faces. My family has PTSD from it. Every time we see a cop, we get scared. My kids don’t want to interact with them. I’m trying to teach them, ‘No, it’s OK to talk to them.’ Sometimes things happen.”
According to the attorney general’s office, police made 8,866 felony pot arrests involving 7,987 adults and 879 juveniles in 2015. An application was posted online by the California Judicial Council for a petition for resentencing, expunging and sealing records.
Allison Margolin, a partner at Margolin and Lawrence, pointed out that Proposition 64 builds on Proposition 47, which reduced some drug crimes to a misdemeanor. Proposition 64 adds growers, sellers, transporters and juveniles to those who could potentially drop charges. “It’s really awesome for a lot of people, of course,” Margolin said. “A young person who sold weed in college and gets caught and then has it affect their whole life—there’s probably more than a hundred thousand people in those situations.” Margolin plans on opening a legal clinic on December 3 for those wishing to expunge their records.
Those with past pot convictions could benefit from Proposition 64’s provisions more than anyone else. Dropping charges could create life-changing situations for some people in the job market.