Los Angeles to Erase 50,000 Criminal Cannabis Convictions

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles-area prosecutors are joining other district attorneys to use technology to wipe out or reduce as many as 50,000 old marijuana convictions years after California voters broadly legalized the drug.

The county is working with the Code for America nonprofit tech organization, which uses computer algorithms to find eligible cases that are otherwise hard to identify in decades-old court documents. It comes after San Francisco found success clearing convictions, which other cities and states nationwide said they will try to do.

“When we do this right, we show that government can make good on its promises.”

Jennifer Pahlka, Code for America executive director

“This collaboration will improve people’s lives by erasing the mistakes of their past and hopefully lead them on a path to a better future,” LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement Monday.

San Joaquin County also announced their partnership with the group to remove up to 4,000 cases.

California voters approved eliminating some cannabis-related crimes and wiping out past criminal convictions or reducing felonies to misdemeanors when they legalized adult marijuana use in 2016.

But there was no easy way to identify an estimated 200,000 cases statewide. Convicts had to file petitions on their own to get their records changed or hire lawyers for help with the process.

After partnering with the group, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon announced last month that 9,300 cases dating to 1975 will be dropped or reduced for free and in many cases, without the convicts’ knowledge.

It began when his office started sifting through thousands of criminal cases last year to identify eligible marijuana convictions after only 23 people who hired lawyers had taken advantage of the new law.

A few months later, after managing to dismiss just over 1,000 cases during the painstaking work, Gascon partnered with Code for America, a San Francisco group that uses technology to make government more efficient.

Computer coders with the group developed the Clear My Record algorithm to quickly identify eligible cases and automatically fill out forms to file with the courts.

“When we do this right, we show that government can make good on its promises, especially for the hundreds of thousands who have been denied jobs, housing and other opportunities despite the passage of laws intended to provide relief,” said Jennifer Pahlka, executive director of Code for America.

“Clear My Record changes the scale and speed of justice and has the potential to ignite change across the state and the nation,” she said.

Prosecutors in Baltimore, Seattle, Chicago and other cities have said they also would clear eligible marijuana convictions. In legalizing last year, Michigan said it would eliminate cannabis crimes and allow past convictions to be erased or reduced.

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Wake ‘n’ Bake Better Edibles With the Bong Appetit Cookbook

No one forgets the first time they tried an edible, particularly if it’s the DIY varietal. For me, it was a batch of pot brownies my junior year of college. In typical pre-legalization fashion, we dumped roughly one-eighth of some unknown strain into a pan of oil or butter to infuse the core mixture (always from a box, of course). The ventilation was poor and I started to get high off the fumes, resulting in a munchie-fueled takedown of one-and-a-half highly concentrated (and extremely repulsive) tasting brownies.

Unsurprisingly, the rest of this story devolves into a nice little surrealist anxiety spiral of classic overdosing (long story short: I ended up stoned for almost 24 hours, running into iconic film critic Richard Ebert at dawn in the sobering haze of my rookie mistake. Whoa! Strong edibles!). I’ve told this story many times, but it’s beginning to date now that edibles are less of a guessing game thanks to standardized, tested products and the guiding voice of cannabis cookbooks like Bong Appetit.

“There Are Genuinely No Limits”

(Courtesy of Marcus Nilsson)

As a lifelong cannabis enthusiast and someone who has been covering food for the past 15 years, the evolution of cannabis as an ingredient is nothing less than fascinating. Experimental chefs, cooks, and food scientists are growing an encyclopedic knowledge of cannabis strains, terpenes, medicinal benefits, dosage, and culinary techniques so that the possibilities of cooking with cannabis are limitless. Who needs crappy box brownies when you can poach a whole octopus in cannabis-infused olive oil?

In fact, that’s one of the recipes in the eponymous debut cookbook from popular Viceland show, “Bong Appetit,” which premieres its third season on April 2. Hosted by Vanessa Lavorato, the vision behind boutique cannabis chocolatier Marigold Sweets in Los Angeles, along with BReal of rap group Cypress Hill and chef-owner Miguel Trinidad of Jeepney in New York (who both replace seasons 1 and 2 co-host Abdullah Saeed), the show invites chefs and cooks to discuss the intersection of cooking, culture, and cannabis over a dinner party.

“So much of [the TV show] is just about experimentation and what you can do when there are genuinely no limits,” says Rupa Bhattacharya, editor in chief at Munchies and co-author of the Bong Appetit cookbook alongside Lavorato. “I feel the show itself has done so much to normalize cooking with cannabis, as well as just thinking of it as an ingredient, and how all of those flavors and combinations that work so well together.”

More Than Just Recipes

(Courtesy of Marcus Nilsson)

Bong Appetit isn’t the first cookbook to explore cooking with cannabis, but it is certainly among the most versatile. For the uninitiated, cooking with cannabis can be incredibly challenging, even for an experienced cook. Proper dosing is a relatively new concept and even the term “terpene” is not widely understood or used beyond hardcore enthusiasts and industry insiders. Which means that the majority of people who have not been making edibles on the regular in legal states are not likely considering whether their mac and cheese pairs better with a fruity strain like Blueberry or something citrusy like Lemon Haze.

Putting all of that into context, and you can understand why trying to develop an interesting, fun cannabis cookbook that’s a one-size-fits-all is undeniably impressive.

“In addition to just the fundamental cost of ingredients in the pantry, some people who use this book are going to live in legal states and some aren’t,” says Bhattacharya. “If you have access to the kind of pantry you have in the book–incredible. But we also wanted it to work for people who didn’t. So, we try to keep the infusions fairly straightforward, be it butters, various oils, and if you wanted to add terpenes, there are options to do that.”

Beyond its visually stunning design work, the format is incredibly intuitive. Unlike other cannabis cookbooks that deep-dive too much into the science and terminology, Bong Appetit keeps information streamlined and user-friendly, with plenty of great tips. Once you get the basics down (including the super-smart advice of simmering your oil in a mason jar instead of a double boiler), it’s easy to adlib based on whatever constraints you might have in your kitchen to properly dose out a dinner party without knocking everyone out.

(Courtesy of Marcus Nilsson)

That includes omitting cannabis entirely, as the recipes have been tested with infused and non-infused oils and fats. Among the most interesting recipes: an “apple bong” carved like the OG version, with an infused mezcal cocktail inside and flower on top to additionally smoke-infuse the drink (yes, you’re basically smoking bong water, but it’s good bong water!).

“There’s one cake recipe where you can really ‘choose your own adventure’ and you can actually infuse I think almost every ingredient except for the flour,” she says. “So, there’s a chart of how much you can get and you can really make this work for you. It’s more of a question of what you like what you have access to, and what you’re capable of from a culinary standing.”

And, yes, there is a recipe for infused olive oil poached octopus in the book. But are people actually going to be doing this at home?

“I completely hear that, but I hope so! The octopus is phenomenal and such an easy way to do it that it’s gonna blow your mind how easy it is. We fought to get that in the book. We really wanted to have it in there and it makes me so happy that it’s there.”

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