San Fernando To Sponsor Record Expungement Clinic For Cannabis, Nonviolent Crimes

With the recent passage of California legislation, including the legalization of marijuana, more than half a million Los Angeles County residents qualify to have their criminal records reduced or expunged.

That is why the City of San Fernando has agreed to partner with Angeles Emeralds — a cannabis advocacy nonprofit that hosts educational tours for local governments and community organizations and works with the LA county Public Defender’s Office — to host a clinic here showing how qualified residents can have their records reduced or expunged for free.

The announcement came during the City Council meeting on Monday, Nov. 19. 

When California voters passed Proposition 64 in 2016, it legalized marijuana in the state but also reduced and eliminated criminal penalties, including for past convictions. In Los Angeles county, it is estimated more than 200,000 residents would benefit from this legislation.

Angeles Emeralds representatives said they would also try to help anyone who may qualify to have a nonviolent conviction reduced or expunged under Proposition 47, passed in 2014, which reduced six nonviolent felonies to misdemeanors.  

“I think it would be great,” said Councilmember Robert Gonzales, who proposed hosting the clinics while discussing cannabis regulation for the city. “It would help out our community members because there’s a lot of times some of our community members may have done something in their past and are no longer that person, but they still get ‘tapped on’ because of their records.”  

Angeles Emeralds has hosted nearly a dozen such clinics, most recently in Skid Row, and have helped between 1,500-2000 people have successful expungements, according to co-founder and Executive Director Jonatan Cvetko. He said it usually takes about six months to complete the process.  

Angeles Emeralds would provide staff and volunteers to help up to 100 qualified residents. Cvetko said City officials would need to provide the space and help promote the event, which could happen as soon as January.  

Although this is a benefit from the cannabis legalization that took effect this year, it does not affect the City of San Fernando’s policy on cannabis. It currently has an ordinance in place to ban the industry from operating in the city until City officials decide what would be permitted.  

“This shows a real commitment for the City as to how they are looking to responsibly implement their local regulations here around cannabis. From the licensing through whatever else, it’s about making the community a better place. So, you know, kudos to them for trying to see this and trying to work that up,” Cvetko said.  

Also at the meeting, Director of Community Development Timothy Hou announced the Planning and Preservation Commission had approved a recommendation to allow cannabis delivery services and microbusinesses — where multiple operations like cultivation, lab testing, and delivery services may operate at the same location — but no storefront dispensaries.  

Measure A Community Advisory Committee Establish

With the passage of Measure A by nearly 69 percent of city voters on Nov. 6, the council unanimously agreed to establish a community advisory committee to oversee how funds generated by the half cent tax will be spent.  

The idea of a community advisory committee was first proposed by the president of the San Fernando Chamber of Commerce, Adriana Gomez,  during public comment on Sept. 17 “to strengthen public support and confidence in the transparent and responsible use” of the additional funds.   

The seven-person committee would be comprised of two City residents who must be registered voters, two business community representatives, two unionized city employees, and one at-large member. The committee will meet at least twice a year, once in September to review the collection, management, and expenditures of the tax revenues, and in January or February to discuss recommended budget priorities, such as paying debt, replacing equipment, or adding staff.  

Appointments are for two years, with the possibility of serving four consecutive years. Members can serve more than four years only after two years have passed between their last appointment.  

Commissioners’ Stipend Raised

The council also approved increasing the city commissioners’ stipend from $50 to $75 per meeting per month.

Both Vice Mayor Antonio Lopez and Mayor Sylvia Ballin said the increase is “well deserved” because commissioners spend a significant amount of time administering to the responsibilities of those positions.  

When asked if it is not a snub to residents who were persuaded to approve a tax to secure the city’s financial security, only to give commissioner’s a raise after that tax was approved, Ballin said she stood by her decision.

“These commissions bring a lot of value to the city,” she said.  “They have a tremendous amount of stuff to read and study and educate themselves. They spend a lot of hours in advance of coming here to read those reports,  very, very lengthy reports.”  

She said $50 is “a very small amount” for the work they do and that the council was discussing increasing the stipend long before discussing putting measure A on the ballot. 

“The timing is a little quirky, but what can I say. I support it 100 percent. These people, work all day and then come here and sit here for three to four hours.”

The council will pass a budget resolution, effective Jan. 1, 2019, to appropriate an additional $1,500 for the commissions, raising the allocation to $4,500.