CA Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Bill To Allow Those Who Completed Court Ordered Diversion Programs to Clean Up Records

CALIFORNIA: California Gov. Jerry Brown acted on two life-changing companion bills, approving one, but vetoing the other. Brown signed A.B. 1352 which allows those who have completed court ordered drug diversion since 1997 to file with the court to convert their plea to a “not guilty.”  Before 1997, there was a pre-plea diversion option in California.  The relief applies only to those who have completed diversion, which has already resulted in clearing the arrest and conviction from their record. The change is urgently needed, because the guilty plea triggers federal consequences, including deportation for non-citizens, or loss of housing and educational grants for citizens. These cruel consequences exist even for very old cases against legal immigrants or parents or spouses of US citizens.

The prospective companion bill, A.B. 1351 vetoed by Gov. Brown, would have allowed judges the discretion to order diversion to drug treatment or education without the precondition of a guilty plea. California currently lacks a pre-plea option, and the admission of guilt is considered a conviction for federal immigration purposes. The consequences can be immediate and devastating, including deportation, mandatory detention, and permanent separation of families.

The bills were authored by Stockton Democrat Susan Talamantes-Eggman and were considered priorities by the California Legislative Latino Caucus and several immigrant and human rights groups, working in conjunction with drug policy and criminal justice reformers.

Justice Department Set To Free 6,000 Prisoners, Largest One-Time Release

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The Justice Department is set to release about 6,000 inmates early from prison — the largest one-time release of federal prisoners — in an effort to reduce overcrowding and provide relief to drug offenders who received harsh sentences over the past three decades, according to U.S. officials.

The inmates from federal prisons nationwide will be set free by the department’s Bureau of Prisons between Oct. 30 and Nov. 2. About two-thirds of them will go to halfway houses and home confinement before being put on supervised release. About one-third are foreign citizens who will be quickly deported, officials said.

The early releases follow action by the U.S. Sentencing Commission — an independent agency that sets sentencing policies for federal crimes — that reduced the potential punishment for future drug offenders last year and then made that change retroactive.

Police Arrested Someone For Weed Possession Every 51 Seconds In 2014

Law enforcement officers made just over 700,000 arrests on marijuana-related charges in 2014, according to data released by the FBI on Monday. Of that total, 88.4 percent — or about 619,800 arrests — were made for marijuana possession alone, a rate of about one arrest every 51 seconds over the entire year.

While the national conversation about marijuana continued to shift in 2014, with recreational weed laws fully in effect in Colorado and Washington — and measures to legalize the plant being passed in Washington, D.C., Oregon and Alaska — the year also saw a reversal in a seven-year trend of largely declining possession arrests.

The 2014 figures mark a minor uptick from 2013, a year that saw 609,570 people booked on possession charges alone. Arrests for possession, however, have generally been trending downward since 2007, when they reached an all-time high of 775,137.

U.S. Marijuana Arrests Up Despite Changing Views: Pro-Pot Group

Despite an increasing number of Americans who do not view marijuana use as a crime, pot arrests across the United States increased last year for the first time since 2009, proponents of the drug’s legalization said on Monday.

Citing the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report released on Monday, the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project said 700,993 arrests were made for pot-related offenses during 2014, up from 693,058 the year before.

More than 88 percent of the marijuana arrests were for possession, and not for trafficking or other offenses, group spokesman Mason Tvert said in a statement.

“These numbers refute the myth that nobody actually gets arrested for using marijuana,” Tvert said. “It’s hard to imagine why more people were arrested for marijuana possession when fewer people than ever believe it should be a crime.”