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San Diego Attorneys Work To Overturn Marijuana Convictions

Marijuana is stored in bins for trimming and packaging in preparation to be s...

Photo by Brennan Linsley/AP

Above: Marijuana is stored in bins for trimming and packaging in preparation to be sold retail at 3D Cannabis Center, in Denver.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office are teaming up to dismiss or reduce thousands of marijuana convictions. Now local attorneys are pushing awareness and offering help too.

The effort comes after little response to a provision in Proposition 64 that not only reduces or eliminates many marijuana law violations, it makes those changes retroactive. It’s been in place for more than a year. However, attorneys say few have taken advantage.

Marijuana convictions continue to stand in the way of employment, housing, financing, licensing and voting for thousands in San Diego County.

“We’ve changed the law for everyone because it wasn't the right law for anyone,” said Jessica McElfresh, a criminal defense attorney who specializes in Cannabis Law and Regulation.

RELATED: Prosecutors In San Diego And San Francisco Dropping, Reducing Marijuana Convictions

She said while filing the paperwork to get some marijuana convictions cleared or reduced is easy, many of her clients are intimidated by the process.

“For many people that becomes a barrier because they are concerned it’s more complicated than it is. They don’t want to go to a courthouse. Let’s face it, it’s very few people’s favorite place to go," McElfresh said.

The San Diego County District Attorney's office said they worked with the public defender to identify, review and approve petitions for about 680 defendants who were in custody or on probation.

The D.A.'s office said there are still thousands of potential defendants going back about 10 years who may be eligible. These are people who are not in jail or on probation but would still like their conviction reduced. They sent a list of about 14,000 names to the public defender for review.

“It’s relatively simple to get the relief from the court and it’s very broad in the offenses. It’s very broad in who can qualify. It doesn't matter if you've had another conviction. It doesn't matter if you've been convicted of several different marijuana offenses. You will likely qualify for relief,” McElfresh said.

The District Attorney's office says it takes about two days for them to process a petition. In the meantime, some state lawmakers are working on legislation to have criminal marijuana records automatically cleared.

For more information about how to file a petition, visit the San Diego District Attorney's website.

RELATED: San Diego DA’s Prosecution Of Pot Attorney Has Sent Chills Through The Legal Community

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office are teaming up to dismiss or reduce thousands of marijuana convictions. Now local attorneys are pushing awareness and offering help too.

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