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. It would also provide an expedited process that clears non-felony marijuana offenses lingering in the federal system.
The bill would deliver justice for Americans whose lives have been disrupted and deprived because of a cannabis misdemeanor offense. They were 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 a record for a qualifying event may file a motion for expungement in the court for the Federal district in which the arrest and legal proceedings took place.
“These misdemeanors, even without a conviction, can result in restrictions to people’s ability to access educational aid, housing assistance, occupational licensing, and foster parenting. Delivering justice for our citizens impacted by marijuana-related misdemeanors is a key component of comprehensive cannabis reform,” said Carter.
“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. Facilitating the expungement of minor federal marijuana offenses is a necessary step. It will allow impacted people to reach their full potential,” said Morgan Fox. He is the Political Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
“Millions of Americans have been affected by the lifelong consequences of marijuana-related convictions … 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.”
“This landmark legislation will allow countless Americans to move forward with their lives. It will 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).
“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. It 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 are pending in Congress. The MORE Act, The States Reform Act, and the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act provides for expungement and resentencing relief. It is aimed at helping those convicted at the federal level, including cannabis misdemeanors. In addition, the Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act seeks to appropriate $20 million to Justice Department. It would financially assist states and local governments with reviewing and expunging convictions, including cannabis misdemeanors.
More than 20 states have enacted laws having select convictions expunged, vacated, set aside, or sealed from public view. In the past few years, state and local officials have expunged or sealed the records of over two million people.