Marijuana Convictions are Disappearing With Drug Legalization in California

Since Proposition 64 was unanimously passed in November of last year, lawyers like Attorney Bruce Margolin have been inundated with requests for legal assistance. This is primarily due to a lesser-known provision of Proposition 64 which allows some convicts to wipe their rap sheets clean and offers hope for people with past convictions who are seeking work or loans.

Margolin and his team receive upwards of three pot-related requests per week, with many of these cases remaining active for years if not decades.  However, the frequency of these requests should come as no surprise to anyone with a working knowledge of Margolin’s career. The West Hollywood-based lawyer has spent most of his five-decade career fighting pot cases and pushing for legalization of marijuana, even making it a platform for unsuccessful runs for state Legislature and Congress.

It’s hard to say how many people have benefited from his advocacy (although more than 2,500 requests were filed to cut convictions or sentences, according to partial state figures reported through March). Regardless Margolin has successfully knocked the felonies of dozens of people down to infinitely more manageable misdemeanors.

One such individual to benefit from Margolin’s legal advocay is Jay Schlauch.  20 years ago Schlauch was arrested for possessing 8.5 pounds of marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms. He was later convicted of cannabis possession in large amounts, a conviction that ultimately haunted him for almost 25 years. The felony created difficulties with finding a job, gave his wife doubts about Jay’s future career and cast a damper on his general health and well-being.

In this Feb. 2, 2017 photo, Jay Schlauch poses for a photo outside Los Angeles Superior Court in Van Nuys after a judge reduced his felony conviction for selling marijuana to a misdemeanor. Thousands of people convicted of marijuana crimes in California have asked to get their records reduced since the state legalized recreational pot. When an opportunity arose to reduce his record to a misdemeanor under the voter-approved law that legalized recreational marijuana last year, Schlauch wasted little time getting to court. (AP Photo/Brian Melley)

When it came time for Schlauch’s hearing, he showed up an hour early at the Van Nuys courthouse.  Clutching a folder with letters praising him for doing volunteer work with veterans, working with children with disabilities at a martial arts school and earning a nursing degree long after his run-in with the law, Schlauch’s case was so old that the court file was incomplete.

It was exactly this length of time that allowed prosecutors rifling through his court papers to wonder whether he was eligible for relief.

After flipping through the book that houses the new laws of Prop 64 for barely five minutes, the judge reached a verdict.

“I don’t see any reasonable risk of danger. It seems like he’s entitled,” Judge Martin Herscovitz said. “The petition is granted.”

And with that, the decades-long black cloud that had hung over Schlauch’s head was finally lifted.

Petey Wheatstraw

My name is Petey Wheatstraw, also known as Charles Stevens. I'm an avid marijuana smoker, writer, devoted father and non-profit minion-- not necessarily in that order. A Chicago native I've lived off and on in the Bay Area since 1996. Seven years ago I finally settled here to capture the changing face of our communities. Click Here for Free Cannabis