Long-time readers here and at my other blog know I have long been interested in how marijuana reform can advance criminal justice reform. My 2018 article, “Leveraging Marijuana Reform to Enhance Expungement Practices,” called for much greater efforts to ensure marijuana reforms advance criminal record expungement efforts. Happily, my 2018 article now already feels a bit dated because there has recently been a much greater emphasis on record relief in many marijuana reforms proposed and passed over the last couple of years.
These recent realities have been effectively documented at the Collateral Consequences Resource Center. CCRC Deputy Director David Schlussel first highlighted these developments in March 2020, via this posting and resource under the title “Legalizing marijuana and expunging records across the country.” That detailed posting began this way: “As the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana has now reached a majority of the states, the expungement of criminal records has finally attained a prominent role in the marijuana reform agenda.” Wonderfully, this new follow-up posting provides the lastest detailed post-election accounting and gets started this way:
In November’s election, four more states legalized marijuana at the ballot box: Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. The measures in Arizona and Montana included provisions for expunging the record of convictions for certain marijuana arrests or convictions. During this year’s presidential campaign, President-elect Joseph R. Biden called for decriminalizing marijuana use and automatically expunging all marijuana use convictions.
As legalization continues to advance, the expungement of criminal records has finally attained a prominent role in marijuana reform, a development we documented in March. Laws to facilitate marijuana expungement and other forms of record relief, such as sealing and set-aside, have now been enacted in 23 states and D.C.
Until very recently, most such laws extended to very minor offenses involving small amounts of marijuana and required individuals to file petitions in court to obtain relief. Now, a growing number of states have authorized marijuana record relief that covers more offenses and either does away with petition requirements or streamlines procedures.
With these developments, we have again updated our chart providing a 50-state snapshot of:
(1) laws legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana;
(2) laws that specifically provide relief for past marijuana arrests and convictions, including but not limited to conduct that has been legalized or decriminalized; and
(3) pardon programs specific to marijuana offenses.