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Expungement

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 7, 2020

    Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has vetoed legislation, House Bill 83, which sought to prohibit “the Maryland Judiciary Case Search from in any way referring to the existence of a certain case in which possession of marijuana is the only charge in the case and the charge was disposed.” The database provides public access to the case records of the Maryland Judiciary.

    The legislation, if enacted, would have shielded an estimated 200,000 low-level marijuana convictions from public view.

    In a prepared statement, the Governor acknowledged that he was vetoing HB 83, along with several other criminal justice reform measures, because House lawmakers failed to pass a separate bill, the Violent Firearms Offenders Act of 2020.

    “While the Senate approved the package by a wide margin, the House failed to act upon it [the Violent Firearms Offenders Act of 2020],” Gov. Hogan wrote in his veto message. Therefore, … I have vetoed … House Bill 83.”

    As initially drafted and passed by the House, HB 83 sought to review and automatically expunge past, low-level marijuana convictions. State law currently allows those previously convicted of a marijuana possession offense to petition the courts to have their criminal record expunged.

    Maryland lawmakers adjourned the 2020 legislative session nearly three weeks early as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 13, 2020

    House lawmakers have voted overwhelmingly in favor of legislation facilitating the automatic expungement of past, low-level marijuana-related convictions.

    Legislators decided 116 to 15 in support of House Bill 83, which mandates, “All court records and police records relating to any … charge of possession of marijuana, … where marijuana is the only charge, the case shall be automatically expunged on or before October 1, 2022.”

    “Our current law enforcement approach makes every arrest a life sentence. Criminal records associated with marijuana possession plague individuals throughout the remainder of their life,” said Luke Jones, Executive Director of Maryland NORML and a proponent of the bill. “Forcing individuals who have already been burdened by their entanglements with our criminal justice system to independently navigate the complex record-clearing process to petition for their record expungement can prove extremely challenging, often requiring expensive legal assistance and the payment of court fees. This places record expungement out of reach for must of us. This legislation will help tens-of-thousands to move on with their lives and signal to law enforcement that we are changing the way to relate to marijuana consumers in Maryland.”

    State lawmakers in 2017 enacted legislation permitting those with low-level marijuana conviction to petition the courts for an expungement. That process typically involves hiring a lawyer.

    Earlier this week, House members voted 93 to 44 in favor of separate legislation, HB 550, which reclassifies offenses involving the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis from a criminal offense to a civil violation — punishable by a fine only, no arrest and no criminal record.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 2, 2020

    Legislation takes effect on Saturday, January 11, decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses.

    The new law, which was passed in July, reduces penalties involving the possession of up to three grams of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a $1,000 fine and a criminal record, to a non-criminal violation – punishable by a $130 fine. It also provides procedures for the courts to grant an expungement order for those previously convicted of a marijuana possession offense involving no more than three grams.

    The law was enacted absent the Governor’s signature.

    Lawmakers are hoping to expand the scope of the law in the coming legislative session.

    Twenty five states and the District of Columbia have either legalized or decriminalized the adult possession and use of marijuana.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 31, 2019

    Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker today issued over 11,000 pardons to those with low-level marijuana convictions. The action came on the eve of the enactment of legislation legalizing adult-use cannabis sales.

    “As one of the authors of this historic law, I am so proud to witness equity being put into practice today,” said Toi Hutchinson, Senior Advisor to the Governor for Cannabis Control. “The 11,017 pardons that Gov. Pritzker is granting today are thousands of lives forever changed — and hundreds of thousands more will be changed in the coming months. Those who were unfairly targeted by discriminatory drug laws can finally get ahead and build a new future for themselves and their families.”

    Under the new law, state-licensed retailers may provide up to 30 grams of cannabis to those over the age of 21. Those who are visiting from out of state may purchase 15 grams of cannabis.

    The law also enacts several other changes. Specifically, it permits qualified patients for the first time to engage in the home cultivation of up to five plants, while decriminalizing home grows for non-patients. The law also establishes procedures for the automatic expungement of low-level minor convictions (possession up to 30 grams) and facilitates a process for the expungement of cases involving the possession of up to 500 grams. An estimated 700,000 convictions are eligible for relief under the law.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 27, 2019

    Adults will be able to purchase cannabis from select retailers next week, beginning on Wednesday, January 1.

    Under the new law, state-licensed retailers may provide up to 30 grams of cannabis to those over the age of 21. Those who are visiting from out of state may purchase 15 grams of cannabis. An estimated 30 retailers in the state are now licensed to engage in adult-use marijuana sales.

    The law also enacts several other changes. Specifically, it permits qualified patients for the first time to engage in the home cultivation of up to five plants, while decriminalizing home grows for non-patients. The law also establishes procedures for the automatic expungement of low-level minor convictions (possession up to 30 grams) and facilitates a process for the expungement of cases involving the possession of up to 500 grams.

    Illinois lawmakers passed the legislation, The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, in June. Illinois is the eleventh state to legalize adult marijuana use, and it is the first state to legislatively enact a comprehensive regulatory scheme governing commercial production and sales.

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