Over the past few years, more and more Americans have decided that marijuana should not be illegal. It was not so long ago that pot was illegal in all 50 states and under federal law. With states like Washington leading the way, cannabis is increasingly allowed for recreational and medicinal use.
Decriminalizing cannabis means that fewer and fewer Americans will get arrested on possession charges going forward. But decriminalization by itself does nothing to help people with an old cannabis-related drug charge or conviction on their criminal records. This is where expungement comes in. You can seek to expunge your record, but anything that political leaders can do to make the process easier is welcome.
Decriminalization, then expungement
For example, in 2020, the Cleveland City Council passed an ordinance reducing the penalty for possession of small amounts of cannabis to non-criminal levels. The intention was to make it so that someone convicted of possessing less than 200 grams of marijuana would not get the conviction added to their criminal record or be obligated to disclose it on job or license applications.
Again, the new ordinance prevented future entries onto criminal records, but did not address prior convictions, which might have been beyond the City Council’s power to do. But recently, the mayor, council president and chief prosecutor filed a motion at Cleveland’s Justice Center to expunge more than 4,000 misdemeanor possession crimes from residents’ records. The council president called this move “the natural progression” of the 2020 ordinance.
Beyond marijuana crimes
It is encouraging to see expungement of minor drug charges getting more and more available in the U.S., but other crimes on your record could be holding you back from getting an education or finding a job. You may be eligible to ask for expungement in Washington, but you might not know for sure until you consult with an attorney.