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420 with CNW — Missouri Expunges 100K Marijuana Cases in Year One of Legal Cannabis Sales

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Recent data shows that officials in the state of Missouri have thus far expunged more than 100,000 cannabis cases from court records. Under the law, misdemeanors had to be automatically expunged by June 8, 2023, and felonies had to be cleared by Dec. 8, 2023. The deadline for felony expungements, which lapsed last week, wasn’t met by all courts, however, with clerks still reviewing decades of old cases.

In an interview, Dan Viets, a lawyer and coordinator of Missouri NORML, stated that courts would need additional time to finish the task and noted that it could be years before all cases from the last 100 years were expunged. Viets, who also coauthored the state’s constitutional amendment legalizing cannabis, added that the state had prohibited cannabis for more than a century and, given that most older cases hadn’t been updated on a database, a lot of physical work was needed to find and go through hard-copy records.

In a press release of the state’s NORML chapter, Viets noted that the provision on automatic expungement was a significant part of Missouri’s marijuana law that was approved by voters in 2022. Missouri NORML also highlighted that the ballot proposal, now codified as Article XIV in the state’s constitution, provided funds for the expungement via the 6% sales tax imposed on recreational cannabis.

The organization explained that the tax had generated more revenue than was needed to pay overtime to existing staff or fund the hiring of more staff in the offices of circuit clerks across Missouri. In November, total cannabis sales in the state exceeded the $1 billion mark, with legislators announcing recently that of the total taxes generated, $17 million would fund drug treatment, veterans’ health and legal aid.

Viets also noted that counties that missed the December deadline were in violation of Missouri’s constitution and legal action could be taken. He then revealed that about six of the counties in the state hadn’t expunged any cases on misdemeanor violations, asserting that these were smaller counties where Amendment 3’s support wasn’t as high.

On a broader scale, the state’s cannabis system has experienced significant hitches this year, with thousands of products being recalled over the illegal use of cannabinoids derived from hemp. In November, officials revoked Delta Extraction’s business license, as the company was at the center of the aforementioned dispute.

Another company, Retailer Point Management, also had to settle a dispute with a union over more than 10 charges of unfair labor practices. All this is part of a wider push by workers at marijuana businesses to organize the industry.

These ongoing expungements are likely being watched closely by the entire cannabis industry, including companies such as SNDL Inc. (NASDAQ: SNDL), given that times have changed and there is a growing consensus that no one should suffer lifelong consequences for being convicted after using a substance that is now legal in a significant portion of the United States as well as several countries around the world.

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