National News

A Startup Steps Up to Help Sweep Away Old Pot Convictions

Posted May 16, 2018 1:40 p.m. EDT

In 2016, California voters decided to legalize the personal use and growth of marijuana. This year, the state legalized recreational cannabis sales.

Even so, hundreds of thousands of Californians’ permanent records remain stained with marijuana convictions, making it difficult to secure loans, housing or jobs.

What gives?

Part of the problem is time: The process of digging up old files, determining who is eligible for record clearance and filing the paperwork to dismiss some of the convictions can be a lengthy drain on resources.

San Francisco’s district attorney, George Gascón, is turning to tech for help.

Gascón said on Tuesday that his office had teamed up with Code for America, a nonprofit that works with the government on tech solutions. The startup will provide a tool, called Clear My Record, that helps automate the eligibility process and the paperwork. Clear My Record generates a digital file that the district attorney can submit as a completed motion with the courts.

“When the government uses 20th-century tools to tackle 21st-century problems, it’s the public that pays the price,” Gascón said in a statement. “I’m hopeful that this partnership will inspire many prosecutors who have cited resource constraints to join this common sense effort and provide this relief.”

Code for America plans to share Clear My Record with other California counties. It hopes to help clear 250,000 marijuana convictions by next year.