On Sunday, SB 949, which makes it easier for people who have been convicted of marijuana possession to clear their records in Maryland, went into effect. The bill became law in May without Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature.
Prior to the bill’s passage, anyone convicted of cannabis possession was required to wait 10 years before applying for expungement, despite Maryland decriminalizing possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana in 2014. Now, the waiting period has been reduced from 10 years after conviction to four years.
While this reform is a step in the right direction, it is far short of the improvements Marylanders need. If you are a Maryland resident, please write to your state legislators, and ask them to support taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol.
In what hopefully becomes a trend in other states, a Colorado court has overturned a marijuana conviction that occurred just after the passage of Amendment 64.
Huffington Post reports:
A state appeals court has overturned the marijuana conviction of a Colorado woman who was sentenced and convicted for marijuana possession just days after voters approved a measure legalizing recreational marijuana in the state almost three years ago -- retroactively applying the law to her case.
Citing a decision in a previous case, the appeals court ruled that convicted criminal defendants should receive “benefit of amendatory legislation which became effective at any time before the conviction became final on appeal,” the opinion, issued last week, reads.
"Amendment 64 is doing exactly what it was intended to do," Mason Tvert, communications director for Marijuana Policy Project, said to The Huffington Post. "Colorado voters made it clear that they do not want adults to be punished for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Hopefully this ruling will ensure these convictions get overturned in any similar cases that might be pending. Fortunately, we have taken the steps needed to prevent these possession convictions from occurring to begin with.”
In the states where marijuana is now legal for adults and regulated like alcohol, there have been ongoing efforts to make sure that people arrested after the passage of these laws but before their implementation are protected by the will of the voters. In addition, there is a growing movement to apply these laws retroactively to people who were convicted before the laws passed.
Colorado could be sealing any past marijuana convictions that Amendment 64 would have rendered impotent. If Senate Bill 218 is passed, Coloradans could petition to have their previous marijuana-related convictions sealed if they would have not been crimes under current Colorado law.
The bill has bipartisan support and was announced Tuesday, April 29. The proposed bill comes with only a few days left in the 2014 session, but its impact could be huge, possibly giving thousands of residents the right to petition.
“There are tens of thousands of people with previous cannabis offenses that hurt them from getting things like loans, housing, and employment,” Jason Warf, a marijuana advocate and director of Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council, told The Denver Post late last week.
Sens. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Westminster, and Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, are the sponsors of the proposal, which is scheduled to be heard today by the Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee. If approved, petitioners would have to file in the district where their conviction occurred, and they would have to pay the court filing fees to have their records sealed.
Recent polling released by the Marijuana Policy Project found more than two-thirds of Delawareans support replacing criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana with a $100 civil fine. The poll also found a majority of voters (51%) support making marijuana legal for adults, and regulating and taxing it like alcohol.
Under current Delaware law, it is a criminal offense for a person to possess a small amount of marijuana, and he or she can be sentenced to up to six months in jail and fined up to $1,150. Additionally, a conviction or even an arrest record can make it difficult to find a job, obtain educational opportunities, or even find adequate housing.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have removed the threat of jail for possession of marijuana, including Colorado and Washington, where marijuana is now legal for adults 21 and older. Twelve other states are currently considering legislation to reduce penalties to a fine. Measures similar to those adopted in Colorado and Washington, which regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol, have been or will be introduced this year in 18 state legislatures plus the District of Columbia Council. In addition, one has been placed on the August ballot in Alaska.