State authorities officers have offered almost 2 million pardons and expungements to folks with low-level marijuana convictions over current years, based on a brand new evaluation from NORML.
There’s been renewed nationwide curiosity in hashish clemency since President Joe Biden issued a mass marijuana pardon in October, forgiving a number of hundreds People who’ve dedicated federal possession offenses and encouraging governors to follow the administration’s lead.
However whereas the presidential motion has been seen by advocates as a welcome step in the precise path, it’s severely restricted in scope, due largely to the truth that overwhelming majority of marijuana circumstances happen on the state stage, falling exterior of the president’s jurisdiction.
Some governors have taken clemency motion within the weeks since Biden’s mass pardon, however many different state and native officers had moved to supply related reduction even earlier than the president stepped up.
A brand new report revealed by NORML on Wednesday examines publicly accessible information from throughout the nation, displaying how officers have offered about 100,000 pardons and 1.7 million expungements since 2018.
“A whole lot of hundreds of People unduly carry the burden and stigma of a previous conviction for conduct that the majority People, and a rising variety of states, not take into account to be a criminal offense,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said in a press launch. “Our sense of justice and our rules of equity demand that public officers and the courts transfer swiftly to proper the previous wrongs of hashish prohibition and criminalization.”
Right here’s are key examples of hashish clemency that state and native officers have facilitated over the previous 4 years:
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) has made a constant effort to proper the wrongs of criminalization. In 2020, for instance, he pardoned more than 15,000 people who had been convicted for low-level hashish possession. That motion was made doable beneath a resolution the governor introduced that was unanimously accepted by the state’s Board of Pardons Commissioners.
In 2019, Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee (D) introduced that individuals with misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions on their information were eligible to receive an expedited pardon. He estimated that 3,500 Washington residents would qualify for the reduction.
In the future earlier than authorized leisure marijuana gross sales launched in Illinois in 2019, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) introduced that his workplace was pardoning greater than 11,000 folks who had previously been convicted of simple cannabis possession.
Kansas Metropolis Mayor Quinton Lucas (D) facilitated pardons for 8,000 residents with marijuana information in 2020, and he adopted up later that yr by introducing an ordinance to end all penalties for marijuana possession beneath the municipality’s native legal guidelines.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) announced last year that he granted 1,351 pardons for convictions of possession of two ounces or much less of marijuana. Beforehand, he signed an government order granting nearly 3,000 pardons for folks convicted of possession one ounce of much less of hashish.
Birmingham, Alabama Mayor Randall Woodfin (D) said at a congressional hearing last month that he’s processed about 23,000 pardons for residents with hashish information.
Gov. Tom Wolf (D) launched the statewide pardon initiative in October, touting it as a chance to let residents have minor hashish possession convictions cleared from their information. And whereas officers touted the truth that it obtained about 3,500 clemency functions, it was just lately reported that only a couple hundred have been conditionally approved.
The governor of Oregon just lately granted a mass pardon for state-level marijuana possession offenses that may provide relief to an estimated 45,000 people—a transfer that she described as “truly an act of mercy” and that received praise from Biden.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) has granted hundreds of pardons during his tenure, primarily for folks convicted of non-violent marijuana or different drug offenses.
“Whereas pardons present a stage of forgiveness for previous crimes, these are usually not the identical as expungements—which seal previous convictions from public view,” the NORML report says. “To facilitate the latter, lawmakers in lots of states lately have enacted legal guidelines offering specific pathways to expunge the information of these with low-level marijuana convictions.”
“In some circumstances, these eligible for expungement reduction are usually not required to take any motion,” it continued. “As an alternative, state officers mechanically overview previous information and notify those that meet the state’s standards for expungement. In different circumstances, state legislation requires these in search of to have their information expunged to petition the courts in an effort to have their information reviewed and vacated.”
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Expungements and File Sealing
Underneath California’s legalization legislation, greater than 200,000 marijuana-related convictions have been expunged. And laws Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed in September to construct upon the reduction provisions of the hashish legislation is anticipate to facilitate about 34,000 extra expungements.
The governor of Illinois has touted that more than 500,000 expungements and pardons had been processed for folks with low-level marijuana offenses on their information in late 2020. He additionally signed a invoice in June to make it so courts cannot deny petitions to expunge or seal records primarily based on a constructive drug check for marijuana.
The New Jersey Judiciary introduced final yr that the state had expunged more than 362,000 marijuana cases, when a decriminalization legislation took impact that mandated the reduction for individuals who have been caught up in prohibition enforcement.
Greater than 150,000 marijuana possession convictions in New York were automatically expunged in 2019, and that quantity has grown to 200,000 as of 2021, NORML mentioned. Officers proceed to course of reduction because the state prepares to launch its adult-use hashish program.
Virginia has sealed more than 64,000 cannabis records for the reason that state moved to legalize marijuana, the state introduced in 2021.
The Arizona Supreme Court docket introduced final yr that it had launched a web site to help people expunge their past marijuana conviction records, pursuant to the legalization initiative that voters approved.
“In complete, two dozen states—together with most just lately, Maryland and Missouri—have enacted laws expediting and facilitating the expungement of marijuana-related prison convictions,” NORML mentioned.
This hashish clemency report is being launched days after NORML released a legislative analysis detailing marijuana reform victories in state legislatures and on the poll in 2022.
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Picture courtesy of Mike Latimer.