Missouri NORML Wipes Out 100,000+ Cannabis Convictions Following Legalization

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In an impressive move towards justice and equality, Missouri NORML has successfully expunged over 100,000 marijuana convictions following the state’s legalization of adult-use marijuana. These expungements were made possible due to provisions included in the voter-approved legalization law, which required the expungement of marijuana-related convictions within a one-year timeframe. According to Dan Viets, a NORML Board Member, this automatic expungement is a significant step in reversing the damage caused by decades of marijuana prohibition in Missouri. While more work remains to be done, this achievement marks a significant milestone in the fight for criminal justice reform and the recognition of the potential benefits of marijuana legalization.

Background

Missouri NORML Expunges Over 100,000 Marijuana Convictions Following Legalization
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History of marijuana legalization in Missouri

Missouri has a complex history when it comes to marijuana legalization. The state first decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2014, reducing it from a criminal offense to a civil infraction. However, it wasn’t until 2018 that the state allowed for the use of medical marijuana, following the passage of Amendment 2. This amendment allowed for the cultivation, production, and sale of medical marijuana under a strict regulatory framework.

Provisions of the legalization law

Overview of the voter-approved adult-use legalization law

In November 2022, Missouri voters approved a ballot measure to legalize the adult-use of marijuana. Known as Article XIV, this law went into effect on December 8, 2022, allowing individuals aged 21 and older to possess, consume, and cultivate marijuana for personal use. The law also established a system for the regulated production and sale of marijuana through licensed dispensaries.

Timeline for expungement of marijuana-related convictions

One of the significant provisions of Article XIV is the expungement of marijuana-related convictions. The law included a one-year timeline for the automatic expungement of these convictions, starting from the date of legalization. This means that individuals with prior convictions for offenses now deemed legal can have their records wiped clean.

Number of cases expunged

Data on the expungement of over 100,000 marijuana-related cases

Missouri NORML Expunges Over 100,000 Marijuana Convictions Following Legalization
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According to data highlighted by Missouri NORML, the state officials have expunged the records of over 100,000 marijuana-related cases in just one year since the legalization law took effect. This mass expungement represents a significant step forward in rectifying the harm caused by the previous criminalization of marijuana.

Statements from Dan Viets

Dan Viets, a NORML Board Member and co-author of Article XIV, emphasized the significance of this automatic expungement. He stated, “In addition to stopping approximately 20,000 marijuana arrests each year, the law now requires the state government to undo much of the damage that was inflicted on hundreds of thousands of Missourians during the past 100 years.” Viets also predicted that additional cases would be expunged in the future.

Challenges in expunging older cases

Difficulties in locating paper records of older cases

In expunging older marijuana-related cases, officials have faced challenges in locating paper records. Many of these cases were never put on a database due to the long history of marijuana prohibition in Missouri. As a result, physically locating these records from boxes and attics has proven to be a time-consuming task.

Potential timeframe for expungements

Given the volume and difficulty of locating paper records, it may take years to complete the expungement process for all cases from the past century. While the one-year timeline provided by Article XIV was a significant step, the physical work involved in locating and reviewing these records cannot be underestimated.

National context

Number of states and DC with expungement laws

Missouri is not the only state to pass expungement laws. Currently, 24 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that provide explicit pathways for the expungement or setting aside of records for individuals with low-level marijuana convictions. This growing trend reflects a recognition of the need to rectify the injustices caused by the disproportionate targeting and punishment of individuals for marijuana offenses.

Statistics on marijuana-related pardons and expungements since 2018

According to publicly available data compiled by NORML, state and local officials have issued over 100,000 pardons and more than 1.7 million marijuana-related expungements since 2018. These numbers demonstrate the significant impact that expungement laws can have in reducing the negative consequences of marijuana convictions on individuals’ lives.

Benefits of expungement

Impact on reducing marijuana arrests

Expungement of marijuana convictions has a direct impact on reducing marijuana arrests. By clearing the records of individuals with prior convictions, the cycle of arrests and criminalization can be broken. This not only reduces the burden on the criminal justice system but also allows individuals to move forward without the barriers associated with a criminal record.

Reversing the damage inflicted on individuals

Expungement also plays a crucial role in reversing the damage inflicted on individuals by the war on drugs. The collateral consequences of a marijuana conviction can be severe, ranging from barriers to employment and housing to limitations on educational opportunities. By expunging these convictions, individuals are given a chance to rebuild their lives and fully participate in society.

Role of NORML

NORML’s involvement in advocating for marijuana law reform

Missouri NORML Expunges Over 100,000 Marijuana Convictions Following Legalization

NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, has been at the forefront of advocating for marijuana law reform since its inception in 1970. The organization has played a crucial role in promoting the decriminalization, medical use, and adult-use legalization of marijuana across the United States. Their expertise and advocacy have been instrumental in shaping the landscape of marijuana laws at both the state and national levels.

Additional information from Missouri NORML

For more information on the expungement of marijuana convictions in Missouri and the work of NORML in the state, individuals can turn to Missouri NORML. This state-level chapter of NORML provides resources, support, and updates on the progress of marijuana law reform in Missouri.

Future expectations

Prediction of additional cases being expunged in the future

Dan Viets, in his statement, predicted that additional cases would be expunged in the future. It is expected that as the expungement process continues, more individuals with prior marijuana convictions will have their records cleared. This ongoing effort is crucial in ensuring the full implementation of Article XIV and the rectification of past injustices.

Timeline for completing expungement process

Given the challenges in locating older paper records, the expungement process may take several years to complete fully. However, the commitment to ensuring justice for individuals affected by past marijuana convictions remains strong. Efforts will continue as officials work diligently to review and expunge the remaining cases.

Implications for other states

Lessons learned from Missouri’s expungement process

Missouri NORML Expunges Over 100,000 Marijuana Convictions Following Legalization

Missouri’s expungement process provides valuable lessons for other states considering or in the process of legalizing marijuana. The importance of including provisions for expungement in legalization laws cannot be overstated. By providing a clear timeline and framework for expungement, states can ensure that individuals affected by past marijuana convictions have their records cleared promptly.

Potential impact on other states considering legalization

The success of Missouri’s expungement process serves as an inspiration for other states considering legalization. It demonstrates that legalizing marijuana and implementing expungement can go hand in hand, allowing for the rectification of past injustices while establishing a regulated and legal market. By learning from Missouri’s experience, other states can ensure that their path to legalization includes provisions for expungement.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Missouri’s expungement of over 100,000 marijuana convictions is a significant step forward in rectifying the harm caused by the previous criminalization of marijuana. Article XIV, the state’s voter-approved adult-use legalization law, has paved the way for the automatic expungement of these convictions. The expungement process faced challenges, particularly in locating older paper records, but the commitment to justice remains unwavering. This mass expungement not only reduces marijuana arrests but also reverses the damage inflicted on individuals’ lives. The work of NORML and its state-level chapter, Missouri NORML, has been instrumental in advocating for marijuana law reform and providing support throughout the process. Missouri’s expungement process serves as a valuable lesson for other states and emphasizes the importance of including provisions for expungement in legalization laws. By learning from Missouri’s experience, other states can pave the way for a more just and equitable future in the context of marijuana legalization.

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