How Different States Handle Marijuana Expungement

With the legalization of marijuana across the nation comes the record relief of cannabis criminal expungement. Many states are putting expungement relief laws into effect after Congress passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE). This act sets forth a process to remove misdemeanor convictions and also review sentencing of federal marijuana offenses but has not yet passed the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is hoping to push for legislation that will expunge records beyond the state level to the federal level. As it stands now, a marijuana expungement is handled at the state level, and each state handles that differently.

Have a look at these states to see how this area of marijuana reform is working across the country.

Arizona Requires a Petition to the Court

In Arizona, ballot measures have been introduced that will require the court to expunge certain arrests and charges of marijuana possession, consumption, and transportation. This will happen upon petition of the court, which is not how every state is doing that.

Michigan Allows for Streamlined Petitions

In Michigan, marijuana misdemeanors can be set aside, and records for offenses that have been decriminalized will be sealed. If a request to have a marijuana misdemeanor is denied, Michigan allows for appeals or a re-hearing of the facts.

Vermont Provides for Automatic Expungement

Vermont has allowed for automatic expungement of marijuana possession charges equaled to a quantity of two ounces or less. The charge must have been entered prior to January 1, 2021. Vermont requires the expungement to be completed by January 1, 2022.

New York Provides for Automatic Expungement

New York allows for an automatic expungement, but that doesn’t mean that it will happen overnight. This is the case for every state with automatic expungement, as the process is tedious. In New York, the Office of Court Administration is going through “tens of thousands” of convictions that would be eligible.

Each record will need to be located before expungement, and New York allows for two years for this to occur. Controlled substance possession is also eligible for expungement, but the protocol for managing that has not yet been identified.

Virginia Allows for Automatic Expungement

Virginians with a record of marijuana possession or consumption can have their records automatically expunged. Virginia is also sealing records related to past arrests, charges, and convictions related to marijuana. This expungement will even apply to prior misdemeanor charges related to the intent to distribute. For felony charges, the individual will need to petition the court.

In some states, the records will not be sealed under certain conditions. If law enforcement is conducting a background check on a potential employee, for example, they will be permitted to access records. The problem doesn’t always entirely go away.

All of these new reform laws are helpful to those with prior convictions or charges. Even so, they can still be problematic. Previous marijuana charges can still derail an individual’s life if the records are not sealed.

Additionally, the charges from the past may have already turned someone’s life upside down if they lost a job, relationship, or lifestyle because of a misdemeanor that no longer exists. If these problems sound all too familiar, seek legal help to speed up this process of marijuana expungement in your state.


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