At 4:20 pm EST on October 24, Senator Sanders released a plan that proposes de-scheduling and legalizing marijuana federally within 100 days by executive action, and supporting legislation to do so through Congress.
It includes a national expungement and re-sentencing process for federal and state cannabis convictions, and increasing opportunities for executive clemency and just re-entry. It would invest a total of $50 billion from marijuana sales tax revenues into “communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs, especially African-American and other communities of color.” Finally, it outlines a series of regulatory measures to create a safe and fair cannabis industry.
How Would a Sanders Administration Handle Mass Expungement?
The Sanders plan looks to California as its model for criminal record expungement and relief. California lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 1793 in September 2018, creating a statewide process for automatic expungement of cannabis convictions.
Under that law, state prosecutors are required to review 40 years’ worth of cannabis convictions and determine who is eligible for expungement or other reliefs. After the state submits eligible expungement applications on behalf of the people who were convicted, county district attorneys have one year to approve or object to the cases.
Sanders’ plan describes a similar process whereby federal and state authorities will review all past and current cannabis convictions, including for people still incarcerated. After determining eligibility and submitting applications, prosecutors will have one year to weigh in. Then states “will automatically expunge and vacate past marijuana convictions for all those eligible.”
Significantly, Sanders also proposes giving funding to state governments that partner with organizations like Code for America—in order to speed up the expungement process by using software to automatically review criminal records and submit applications.
Published: October 30, 2019