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“We have seen firsthand the capabilities of the Clear My Record tool to facilitate the record clearing process and provide a much-needed service to our community, restoring families along with tremendous cost savings to the People of the State of California.”

Californians burdened by cannabis convictions may soon be singing the praises of an under-the-radar nonprofit that seeks to undo the harm of the “War on Drugs.” Code for America (CFA) has developed a unique algorithm that can automate the expungements of people with prior cannabis convictions.

This tool roots through massive criminal databases, finds those with cannabis-possession convictions and automatically files the forms required to get a record cleared.

Two major California counties have already announced they will partner with CFA for this project, which debuted in San Francisco County in 2018. In that region, the algorithm successfully expunged more than 8,100 cannabis convictions. In Los Angeles and San Joaquin Counties, around 54,000 cannabis convictions are eligible for expungement via the organization’s Clear My Record program.1

“Our goal is to convince the world that government can do these things at scale,” Code for America founder and director Jennifer Pahlka told reporters. “It’s not that hard. We just have to think differently about process, about technology, and about justice.”2

This tech-enabled partnership seems to be a win-win for local government. California state lawmakers have asked prosecutors throughout the state to review and address convictions eligible for dismissal or reduction. At a press conference about the new deal, district attorneys “talked about the amount of time it took for their staff to do this versus the roughly 12 seconds in which Clear My Record gets it done. This has the potential to save government millions of dollars in time and resources,” according to GovTech.com.3

San Joaquin County Public Defender Miriam Lyell and District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar said in a joint statement published in an April press release: “We have seen firsthand the capabilities of the Clear My Record tool to facilitate the record clearing process and provide a much-needed service to our community, restoring families along with tremendous cost savings to the People of the State of California.”4

Code for America has set a goal of clearing 250,000 eligible convictions across the U.S. by the end of 2019.

In Canada, a bill has also been introduced to pardon those with simple cannabis possessions. As the government site explains, “On March 1, 2019, the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-93 which proposes to allow Canadians who have been previously convicted only of simple cannabis possession to apply for a pardon (also known as a record suspension) with no application fee or wait period, once their sentence has been served.”5

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