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Representatives Troy Carter (D-LA-2) and Rodney Davis (R-IL-13) introduced a bipartisan bill to expunge federal cannabis misdemeanors.

The Marijuana Misdemeanor Expungement Act would create an expungement mechanism for low-level violations of federal marijuana law and provide an expedited, orderly process that clears the deck of non-felony marijuana offenses lingering in the federal system.

It would deliver justice for countless Americans whose lives have been disrupted and deprived because of a cannabis misdemeanor offense for doing something now lawful for medical or adult-use purposes in 38 states.

The legislation, known as the Marijuana Misdemeanor Expungement Act, says, “The Chief Justice of the United States shall promulgate procedures or practices for the review, expungement, sealing, sequester, and redaction of official records … [specific to any] federal misdemeanor, petty offense, infraction, or civil penalty involving marijuana, including marijuana-related drug paraphernalia, in which the conduct constituting the offense did not involve the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another.”

 “Any individual with an official record for a [qualifying] event may file a motion for expungement in the court for the Federal district in which the arrest, legal proceedings, and any legal results or consequences was obtained,” the bill says.

Those filing cannabis misdemeanor expungement petitions will not incur any fees for doing so. After issuing an order for expungement, the court would be able to refer the case or petition the President of the United States of America for a pardon.

“These misdemeanors, even without a conviction, can result in restrictions to people’s ability to access educational aid, housing assistance, occupational licensing, and even foster parenting. Delivering justice for our citizens who have been impacted by marijuana-related misdemeanors is a key component of comprehensive cannabis reform,” said Carter.

“Given the number of states, like Illinois, where marijuana has long been legalized for adult use, we must ensure that our criminal justice system keeps pace so that individuals with low-level misdemeanor violations related to its use does not preclude them from getting jobs and participating in society,” said Davis.

“Saddling people with the lifelong collateral consequences of even a low-level marijuana arrest or conviction is unjust and provides no legitimate benefit to society. Facilitating the expungement of minor federal marijuana offenses is a necessary step that will allow impacted people to reach their full potential,” National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Political Director Morgan Fox said.

“For far too long, millions of Americans have been affected by the lifelong consequences of marijuana-related convictions on their record for simply possessing a small quantity of cannabis,” said Weldon Angelos, President of the Weldon Project. “Our country must move toward a post-prohibition approach to federal cannabis law and create a mechanism to expunge low-level violations of federal marijuana law.”

“This landmark legislation will allow countless Americans to move forward with their lives, remove an impediment to economic progress, and restore the ability to maximize their full potential, both for themselves and their families,” said Roz McCarthy, Founder, and CEO of Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana (M4MM). “Addressing the negative societal and economic effects permeated by marijuana prohibition at both the federal and state level will be critical as we seek to deliver comprehensive cannabis reform in this country.”

“The National Cannabis Roundtable and our members are committed to cannabis reforms that right past wrongs and advance social equity. The Marijuana Misdemeanor Expungement Act does just that,” said Saphira Galoob, Executive Director of the National Cannabis Roundtable.

“I want to thank the cosponsors for introducing this important legislation, which offers an approach to marijuana expungement that is coherent, efficient, and just,” said Professor Erik Luna of Arizona State University.


Resolving Cannabis Misdemeanors

Several comprehensive reform bills pending in Congress, including The MORE ActThe States Reform Act, and the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, include provisions providing expungement and resentencing relief to those convicted at the federal level of certain cannabis-related crimes, including cannabis misdemeanors. In addition, the Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act seeks to appropriate $20 million to the Department of Justice under the Attorney General to financially assist states and local governments with reviewing and expunging convictions, including cannabis misdemeanors.

More than 20 states have enacted laws explicitly permitting or facilitating the process of having select marijuana convictions expunged, vacated, otherwise set aside, or sealed from public view. In the past few years, state and local officials nationwide have moved to expunge or seal the records of over two million people with prior state-specific cannabis convictions.

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