New Jersey is poised to join 10 other states and D.C. in legalizing marijuana. Part of the bill that recently cleared both senate and legislature committees includes language on how to get marijuana offenses expunged once the substance has become legal. However, bills often undergo changes—sometimes minor sometimes major—between clearing committee and whenever being signed into law by the governor.
Each state that has legalized has had to contend with question of what to do about those who have already been convicted of marijuana-related offenses, and not all of them have taken the same approach. Any of these situations could inform what New Jersey lawmakers finally decide on. Here’s what other states have done:
Alaska. No exceptions to the expungement process have been made following legalization. As recently as this year, lawmakers continue to attempt to pass bills that would automatically vacate past marijuana offenses.
California. Californians can file a petition to have their past marijuana convictions either cleared or reduced. However, in some cities, such as San Diego and San Francisco, lawmakers have decided to expunge the records automatically.
Colorado. Five years after legalizing marijuana, Colorado voted to allow individuals to petition to seal records of any marijuana-related convictions that are no longer considered offenses.
Maine. Despite legalization, there is no change to the process or qualifications for expunging marijuana offenses.
Maryland. Individuals convicted of possession of 10 grams or less must still wait four years (a reduction from 10) to file for an expungement.
Michigan. The proposition to legalize marijuana, which passed on Nov. 6, 2018, did not include provisions regarding existing criminal records. However, Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer has discussed using clemency to provide relief to thousands of residents with marijuana convictions.
Nevada. No changes have been made to the expungement process, and lawmakers have resisted any attempt to make it easier.
Oregon. Individuals can challenge their marijuana convictions and have them reduced or cleared in accordance with the new laws. The state prioritizes any convictions that took place when a person was under 21.
Washington. There was no change to the state requirements for expunging records, but some counties and cities have undergone the task of automatically vacating all marijuana offenses.
Washington, D.C. Records can be sealed, upon filing of a petition, for any offense that has been decriminalized as of 2015.
Vermont. No changes to the expungement process have been made. However, in 2016, then-Gov. Peter Shumlin offered to pardon anyone convicted under the old marijuana laws provided they apply for it. Only 192 people (out of more than 10,000) applied.
In its current form, the New Jersey bill will allow those with marijuana offenses to file a petition to have their convictions expunged immediately, with the usual limitations and requirements waived. But many New Jerseyans may not need to wait until marijuana is legalized. If you or someone you love has been convicted of a marijuana-related offense in New Jersey, consult with an attorney right away to see if you are eligible to have the offense expunged now. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law Firm are skilled expungement attorneys with experience helping people in similar situations. Email the Rosenblum Law Firm or call 888-815-3649 today for a free consultation about your case.