Expunging Millions of Marijuana Records in America

by | Jan 27, 2024

Earlier this month, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) related that its tabulating of state court actions across America has produced the estimate that, since 2018, state courts have expunged, or sealed, marijuana-related records from 2.3 million cases.

The most obvious benefits of marijuana legalization that has been progressing through states arise from the creation of a legal market in the place of prohibition. Including expungement along with legalization adds additional benefit by eliminating from the public records of individuals convictions for actions that post-legalization would not be punishable.

Expungement can be a big deal for individuals who have had encounters with law enforcement and judicial officials related to marijuana. In May, Geoffrey Lawrence and Vittorio Nastasi succinctly presented some of the impairments people suffer due to having marijuana-related criminal records. They stated the following in written testimony in favor of automatic marijuana record expungement that they presented to a Maine legislative committee:

People with criminal records face significant difficulty engaging in productive activities like finding a job, securing housing, obtaining occupational licenses, joining the military, gaining admission to universities, accessing financial services, and maintaining child custody.

While expungement is focused on records of the past, like legalization, it has significant effects in the future.

Author

  • Adam Dick

    Adam worked from 2003 through 2013 as a legislative aide for Rep. Ron Paul. Previously, he was a member of the Wisconsin State Board of Elections, a co-manager of Ed Thompson's 2002 Wisconsin governor campaign, and a lawyer in New York and Connecticut.