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The misdemeanor and felony marijuana convictions of thousands of people will be dismissed or reviewed after San Francisco decided Wednesday to retroactively apply California's legalization laws to decades-old criminal cases, the district attorney said.

The new policy will apply Proposition 64 to almost 5,000 felony marijuana convictions and more than 3,000 misdemeanors dating as far back as 1975, District Attorney George Gascón said.

"A criminal conviction can be a barrier to employment, housing and other benefits, so instead of waiting for the community to take action, we're taking action for the community", he stressed.

An additional 4,940 felony marijuana convictions will be reviewed to determine if they qualify for possible reduction and resentencing.

Between November 2016, when courts began accepting petitions, and October 2017, 4,885 people petitioned for relief statewide, according to the Judicial Council of California.

But it does not happen automatically: A person convicted of a marijuana crime must petition a court to have his or her record changed.

San Francisco will to throw out more than 3,000 pot crime convictions and consider erasing almost 5,000 more in a retroactive application of California's recent legalization of marijuana.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom agrees with the move. The San Francisco District Attorney's office is to be commended for proactively rectifying this situation - one that has disproportionately burdened far too many young people and people of color.

How did San Francisco vote for Proposition 64?

Gascón said in Wednesday's press conference he wasn't sure how long the process would take or how much it would cost, but that misdemeanor convictions could be reviewed fairly quickly.

Recreational marijuana use is now legal in California. A 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that African Americans were more than twice as likely to be arrested for cannabis possession as whites, even though both groups have similar rates of cannabis use. However, the process can be pretty hard, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, who was very much in support of Proposition 64 to pass.