Prior Cannabis Convictions Should Be Cleared in States with Reformed Cannabis Laws
Medical and recreational use, possession, and sales of cannabis are being legalized and subsequently highly profited from in an increasing number of states nationwide.
But as marijuana laws change, suddenly what was once against the law is now a legitimate career path for many people. But what about those who were convicted of low level, nonviolent, cannabis possession or distribution charges before these lax new laws hit the books?
Shouldn’t they see some leniency?
Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach thinks so, and so do we.
On Monday, Sen. Leach introduced SB 1160, a bill that, if passed, would allow any Pennsylvania resident to potentially have their marijuana conviction(s) completely and permanently expunged from their record.
They have to be able to prove that at the time of their bust, they had been officially diagnosed with one of the various ailments on the state’s tragically short list of 17 “approved conditions”.
So the burden of proof would still hamper the person looking to clean up their record, as they would have to prove to a prosecutor that their cannabis use at the time was specifically for their alleged medical condition.
Senator Leach has had success on the cannabis legislative front in the past and is commonly known as the chief architect in getting the state’s fledgling medical marijuana program launched in 2016. Monday’s proposed bill would be a major step in the right direction, but with no Republican co-sponsors and with GOP majorities in the state’s House and Senate, the Democratic Senator from Montgomery County has the odds stacked against him.
Unfortunately, that means that the chances are slim for the thousands of PA residents whose lives would be positively impacted by the proposed law as well.
Should SB 1160 somehow sneak through the Conservative firewall and get passed, Pennsylvania would be the 10th state to enact legislation to expunge or reduce misdemeanor and/or felony cannabis charges for its residents.
One of the few bright points to come out of the passage of Prop 64 in California in 2016 was the expungement option that it offered buried deep in its language. Current or ex-convicts with marijuana charges on their criminal record can now present their case in court and have the old charges re-heard under current cannabis laws.
Busted in 1994 with three-quarters of an ounce of high-grade Hawgsbreath in San Diego?
That is no longer a crime so it would be wiped from your record.
A lingering pot charge on your record can negatively impact your housing options, employment options, travel options, or these days even dating options as men and women often do their own online background checks when they meet someone new. You could be prevented from buying a firearm, from voting, or could still be sitting behind bars for a victimless nonviolent cannabis-related act from years ago.
In states where expungement options do exist, information can be tough to find and many people don’t realize that even if their sentence is already complete, they can still clean up their permanent records.
It’s really a no-brainer and a damn shame that it has not been instituted (in an even stronger fashion) in every state with reformed cannabis laws. What easy positive public relations for a District Attorney or Judge.
We cannot immediately or completely fix the devastation caused by the misguided and heavy-handed War on Drugs that is still being waged to this day. But, expunging these records is a crucial first step that harms nobody, helps many, and just makes sense.
This toke’s for Sen. Leach for progressively pushing the issue forward in Pennsylvania. Now we’ll see if his Republican counterparts choose to join him on the right side of history.