Earlier this week, following the lead of San Francisco from earlier this year, the Yolo County District Attorney announced he “plans to partner with the Public Defender to expedite relief to those with Yolo County marijuana convictions affected by Proposition 64. This will be a collaborative effort between the District Attorney’s Office and Public Defender’s Office.”
It was an odd announcement because, while it had it announced partnership, there were quotes from District Attorney Jeff Reisig but not Public Defender Tracie Olson.
That begged the question – was this actually a partnership or collaboration or was this window dressing in a political year with the district attorney facing a challenge for his reelection bid?
In 2016, Yolo County voted overwhelmingly to support Prop. 64 which legalized marijuana for recreational use. But Jeff Reisig was a listed and vocal opponent of the measure.
In fact, according to Ballotpedia, statewide only four DAs were listed opponents of Prop. 64 – Jeff Reisig, Tony Rackauckas of Orange County, Mike Ramos of San Bernardino County, and Anne-Marie Schubert of Sacramento County.
This is fitting company for Mr. Reisig as you have Mr. Ramos, who has led the way against many of the criminal justice reform measures, Tony Rackauckas who is the embattled DA in the heart of the jailhouse informant scandal, and a kindred spirit in Anne-Marie Schubert.
But facing an electorate that overwhelmingly supported Prop. 64, Mr. Reisig is quick to announce a partnership that apparently isn’t much of a partnership.
The Vanguard has learned that all the district attorney’s office did was supply the public defender with a list of names of those prosecuted. The number is astounding actually. Since 2009, there
are 711 people. That is 711 individuals who are serving time in jail or prison or are on parole due to a marijuana-related conviction.
Proposition 64 not only legalized possession and use of recreational marijuana by adults, it also legalized the purchase, possession, growth and use of small amounts of recreational marijuana for those 21 and older.
Under the measure, the release states, “those convicted of many marijuana crimes may have their punishments reduced based on the age of the person and the charge. More specifically, people convicted of specified marijuana crimes can petition the courts for dismissal of their convictions or reduction of felonies to misdemeanors and misdemeanors to infractions.”
According to the release, about 2000 individuals were prosecuted since 2009 on marijuana charges of some sort. That comes to somewhere around 200 per year. Sixty percent of those were either diverted, dismissed, or dismissed as part of a plea agreement involving non-marijuana related charges. But again, 711 of them were actually punished at some level for use of marijuana, which comes to around 70 people each year for the last 10 years (which is higher because Prop, 64 has only been in effect for the last 15 months).
That includes the case of Paul Fullerton who is currently serving house arrest after taking a misdemeanor plea, being accused of selling marijuana to an undercover YONET agent.
Opponent Dean Johansson in his response called the announcement “politically motivated.”
He writes that “the announcement stated that the current DA may soon do what Mr. Johansson has been advocating since he entered the race…voluntarily reducing or dismissing convictions for marijuana-related offenses.”
In a statement he said, “Although this announcement is clearly politically motivated — and it is unclear whether the DA is exceeding or merely fulfilling his duties under Proposition 64 — I sincerely hope that the DA keeps his promise to help these individuals get their lives back. I’m also proud that our grassroots campaign is already having an impact and changing the conversation about drug enforcement in our county.
“If the current DA is truly committed to restoring justice I would urge him to be transparent about the harm that his past policies have caused. We all know that the war on drugs has disproportionately harmed communities of color, yet the DA’s office claims they do not track drug cases by race or ethnicity. The DA should also explain his past decisions to target medical marijuana growers. Did he truly believe that this was in the public interest and a wise use of our resources?”
Mr. Johansson has publicly taken a stand as early as February 2 (just a week after he announced his candidacy) in favor of dismissing marijuana offenses, and has spoken about it several times since then at campaign events.
In addition to the Paul Fullerton matter, there was also the 2016 raid by TRIDENT on the farm operated by Ted Hicks and Ryan Mears that the Vanguard has been following. The two men had fully licensed facilities raided not by local law enforcement, but by an outside multi-agency drug task force, while the matter has been prosecuted by the Yolo County DA’s Office and a warrant was obtained with the assistance of Deputy DA Michael Vroman.
Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor likened the aggressive tactics of drug enforcement officers, who conducted four raids in 2016 under the direction of DA Reisig, to “terrorist activity” when speaking to the LA Times in early 2017.
Clearly, the announcement by the DA is welcome news, but it seems a rather late conversion by the Yolo DA noted for his tough enforcement efforts even of marijuana.
—David M. Greenwald reporting