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Expungement

  • 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.

  • by NORML December 18, 2019

    Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation (A. 5981/S. 4154) into law today facilitating the expungement of low-level marijuana crimes and other offenses.

    The measure establishes an expedited process for expunging the criminal records associated with minor marijuana-related violations, among other changes. An analysis of nationwide arrest data published last year reported that New Jersey was third in the nation in total marijuana arrests and second only to Wyoming in per capita marijuana arrests.

    “This … will make it possible for thousands of residents now and in the future to truly be able to turn the corner and not have long forgotten mistakes marking them like a ‘scarlet letter’ for the rest of their lives,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, one of the bill’s sponsors.

    In August, the Governor issued a conditional veto to similar legislation, opining at that time that it did not go far enough to streamline the expungement process.

    While some provisions of the new law will take immediate effect, other parts of the measure will not be enacted for 180 days. New Jersey is among more than a dozen states that have enacted legislation in the past months to explicitly expunge or seal the records of those convicted of low-level marijuana offenses.

    “I’m very happy with the State Legislature for taking steps to ensure justice for the hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents whose lives have been irreparably harmed by the disastrous policy of cannabis prohibition,” said NORML NE Political Associate Tyler McFadden. “However, I do hope the legislature moves swiftly to end the arrests of thousands of New Jersey residents every month for simple possession. To expunge records while creating new ones is not only a waste of taxpayer dollars but a continued injustice on the backs of New Jersey’s most vulnerable residents.”

    Governor Murphy also today signed separate legislation into law (A. 5823) restoring voting rights to 80,000 people who are currently on probation or parole. That law goes into effect in 90 days.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 30, 2019

    Those with low-level marijuana convictions are being encouraged to seek pardons from state officials.

    The Pennsylvania Board of Pardons has created an expedited process to review and grant pardon applications for those with marijuana-related records. There is no fee associated with filing an application.

    Those who receive pardons are then encouraged to apply with county officials to have their criminal records expunged from the public domain.

    “[O]ne thing we can do right now is alleviate the burden of small-amount, nonviolent convictions that scar the lives of otherwise productive citizens,” Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman said. “These people have done no harm to anyone else. They shouldn’t continue to suffer with employment and housing issues because they were convicted of doing something that most Pennsylvanians don’t even think should be illegal.”

    Last week, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro both publicly endorsed plans to legalize the adult use of cannabis in the state and to expunge criminal records. Wolf’s announcement marks a change in his prior position, and came shortly after the conclusion of a county-by-county listening tour during which members of the public were asked to share their views on the subject of marijuana policy.

    “We now know the majority of Pennsylvanians are in favor of legalization, and that includes me,” Gov. Wolf said in a prepared statement. Based upon public feedback, officials estimated that between 65 and 70 percent of Pennsylvanians endorse legalizing marijuana.

    Attorney General Shapiro added, “Continuing to criminalize adult personal marijuana use is a waste of limited law enforcement resources, it disproportionately impacts our minority communities and it does not make us safer.”

    In response to the announcement, Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives issued a statement expressing “disappointment” and “frustration:” with the Governor. “We do not believe [that] easing regulations on illegal drugs is the right move,” they said.

    Under state law, minor marijuana possession offenses are classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a criminal record.

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