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Expungement

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 7, 2018

    Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez at a press conference today announced his intent to vacate over ten thousand low-level marijuana convictions.

    Though state lawmakers decriminalized minor marijuana possession offenses in 1977, possessing small amounts of cannabis “in public view” remains a criminal misdemeanor. City police have made several hundred thousand arrests since the late 1990s for violation of the ‘public use’ statute – primarily due to aggressive ‘stop and frisk’ policing. Over 80 percent of those arrested were either Black or Latino.

    Under the DA’s newly announced initiative, those with low-level convictions will be eligible to have their criminal records vacated beginning September 21. Prosecutors estimate that the effort may ultimately result in the expungement of some 20,000 past convictions.

    Earlier this year, DA Gonzalez, along with Manhattan DA Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. declared that their offices would no longer prosecute low-level marijuana offenses. “It’s a little unfair to say we’re no longer prosecuting these cases, but to have these folks carry these convictions for the rest of their lives,” Gonzalez told The Associated Press .

    In recent months, District Attorneys in a number of metropolitan areas, such as San Francisco and Seattle, have begun the process of reviewing and vacating past, low-level marijuana convictions. Lawmakers in several states – including Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, and Rhode Island – have enacted expungement laws following the passage of either marijuana decriminalization or legalization. In California, legislation providing for mandatory expungement of past marijuana convictions is awaiting the Governor’s signature. An estimated 220,000 cases would be eligible for erasure or a reduction under the proposed California law.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 30, 2018

    Democrat Gov. John Carney signed legislation into law today vacating past marijuana convictions.

    Senate Bill 197, which took immediate effect, “provides mandatory expungement eligibility to individuals who were convicted of the possession [of one ounce or less], use or consumption of marijuana prior to Delaware’s decriminalization of these offenses.”

    State lawmakers in 2015 enacted legislation reducing the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis from a criminal act to a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine only — no arrest, and no criminal record.

    To be eligible for expungement under the new law, the defendant must have no other criminal convictions on their record.

    In recent years, lawmakers in several states – including Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, and Rhode Island – have enacted similar expungement laws following the passage of either marijuana decriminalization or legalization. In California, legislation providing for mandatory expungement of past marijuana convictions is awaiting the Governor’s signature. An estimated 220,000 cases would be eligible for erasure or a reduction under the proposed law.

    According to a nationwide poll released in June, 73 percent of Americans support the enactment of legislation “to automatically seal the records of individuals convicted of crimes related to the possession of marijuana.”

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director

    This week, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Congressman Rod Blum (R-IA) announced the Clean Slate Act, HR 6669, along with 22 original cosponsors, to seal the records for marijuana charges one year after the sentence is completed.

    The Clean Slate Act is important legislation that would ease the burden felt by those unjustly suffering the collateral consequences resulting from cannabis prohibition.

    Individuals saddled with a marijuana possession conviction are disproportionately either people of color or at the lowest rungs of the economic ladder, and it is essential that they are not held back from being able to obtain employment, housing, access to higher education, and all of the other necessities of being an active participant in their community. Having been arrested for mere marijuana possession does not make one a bad person, but rather a victim of a cruel public policy.

    Click here to send a message to your Representative and encourage them to cosponsor the bill. 

    “One of our roles in reforming our criminal justice system is to reduce recidivism and ensure that citizens re-entering society can lead productive lives and contribute to our economy. Yet, too often, sentences place a scarlet letter on those that have served their time – keeping people and their families trapped in a cycle of lifelong poverty.  For millions of Americans, an arrest or minor record can permanently put owning a home, getting an education, or earning a good-paying job just out of reach,” said Congresswoman Blunt Rochester. “The Clean Slate Act would ensure that anyone who has paid their debts and earned a second shot has the opportunity to create a better life and future for themselves. This bill will also help employers fill the over 6.7 million unfilled jobs in our country – a win for our economy and society.”

    “Our criminal justice system is in need of reform. Of the 2.3 million estimated people who are incarcerated in the U.S., over 1.4 million are serving sentences for non-violent offenses. Data shows that over 76% of released inmates have found it difficult or near impossible to find work after serving their sentence,” said Congressman Rod Blum. “The issue is cyclical- if we do not remove barriers and create opportunities for these individuals to re-enter society, we are setting them up to fail. Statistically, these individuals are more likely to fall into habitual crime and end up incarcerated once again without jobs and a support system.”

    Click here to send a message to your Representative and encourage them to cosponsor the bill. 

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 23, 2018

    Members of the California Assembly and Senate have approved legislation to facilitate the review and expungement of past marijuana convictions.

    Assembly members approved the bill, AB 1793, by a vote of 43 to 28, while members of the Senate passed the measure by a vote of 28 to 10. The legislation now awaits final action by Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown.

    If enacted, the measure “would require the Department of Justice, before July 1, 2019, to review the records in the state summary criminal history information database and to identify past convictions that are potentially eligible for recall or dismissal of sentence, dismissal and sealing, or redesignation pursuant to AUMA (the Adult Use Marijuana Act).” Prosecutors would have up to a year to then expunge the conviction.

    Regulators estimate that some 220,000 cases would be eligible for erasure or a reduction under the law.

    To date, district attorney offices in a number of California cities and counties, including San Francisco and San Diego, have voluntarily moved to review and expunge past cannabis convictions.

    Elected officials in Oregon and Massachusetts have enacted similar expungement laws following the enactment of adult use legalization.

    If you reside in California, you can encourage Gov. Brown to sign AB 1793 into law by clicking here.

  • by Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director August 21, 2018

    Just a few weeks after Delaware NORML made the trek down to Washington DC, Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) cosponsored The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act (S. 3174), far-reaching legislation that would end the federal prohibition of marijuana and provide resources to expunge the criminal records of those who suffer the collateral consequences of a possession charge.

    Send a message to your Senators now and tell them to cosponsor the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act NOW! 

    Given the public support for outright legalization in Delaware has regularly polled with over 60% support in the First State and across the country, public support is in the low to mid 60 percent range, Senator Carper’s new-found commitment to reform represents another important mile-marker on the highway to victory.

    As states continue moving forward with ending their war on marijuana consumers, it is important that those who were impacted by this oppressive prohibition are able to see previous harms remedied, and be provided the opportunity to participate in the benefits that come along with legalization and regulation. Crucial aspects of the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act include funding to provide record expungements, funding for small entrepreneurs through the Small Business Administration paid for by the taxes on the existing industry, and other provisions.

    With the addition of Senator Carper, there are now 10 Senators on the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act and 13 out of 100 Senators are declared in support of descheduling legislation (including the Marijuana Justice Act). An additional 7 Senators support of the States Act, which would create an exemption in the Controlled Substances Act to protect states that have reformed.

    This is in contrast to the last congressional session when there was only one bill to deschedule marijuana from the CSA, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders which none of his colleagues had the foresight to cosponsor.

    Send a message to your Senators now and tell them to cosponsor the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act NOW! 

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