For most cannabis reform activists and lawmakers, cannabis legalization has been a matter of criminal justice reform. Most, if not all, state cannabis reform bills contain some sort of social justice provisions and have invested monies toward undoing the harms of the failed drug war. One such social justice effort has been expunging the records of people who were convicted of low-level marijuana offenses.
To that end, bipartisan lawmakers have filed a bill that would design a procedure for the expungement of federal misdemeanor cannabis convictions and give courts the authority to recommend eligible cases for presidential pardons. Introduced by Democratic and Republican representatives Troy Carter and Rodney Davis, the Marijuana Misdemeanor Expungement Act would require the chief justice of the United States to enact rules to expedite the “review, expungement, sealing, sequester and redaction” of low-level federal marijuana offenses from people’s records.
According to the legislation, several criminal codes can be considered “expungable events,” meaning people who were convicted under these codes are eligible to have their records expunged. This includes criminal codes that criminalize the possession and distribution of small amounts of cannabis without financial compensation. It also covers any nonviolent federal infractions, civil penalties, petty offenses and misdemeanors that involve cannabis and cannabis-related equipment.
In a press release, Davis said given that dozens of states have legalized cannabis use for either medical or recreational purposes, the country’s criminal justice system has to keep pace to ensure that people aren’t being penalized for low-level misdemeanor offenses that are no longer criminalized. Davis said that misdemeanors can prevent people from becoming employed and essentially prevent them from participating in society.
The new legislation would deliver much-needed justice to thousands of citizens who have had their lives disrupted by a misdemeanor cannabis offense and suffered inordinate collateral consequences, said Carter. He noted that these misdemeanors, even if they don’t result in a conviction, can have severe lifelong consequences such as limiting people’s access to housing assistance, educational aid and occupational licensing.
As per the legislation, the chief justice will have 12 months from the bill’s passage to put forth procedural expungement rules. Every federal district will be given two years to run a thorough analysis and issue expungement, sealing and sequestering orders pursuant to the chief justice’s rules. Once an individual’s record has been expunged of low-level cannabis misdemeanors, the legislation states that any legal proceedings related to cannabis will be treated as if they never happened.
These are badly needed changes to the criminal justice system. Enacting them would go a long way toward showing how legalizing marijuana at the state level and letting companies such as Advanced Container Technologies Inc. (OTC: ACTX) serve companies and individuals in the indoor cultivation segment could be a boon for the economy and society at large.
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