Chittenden County, Vermont Attorney Sarah George is pursuing a plan to erase convictions for low-level cannabis crimes, according to a NECN report. George, the head prosecutor for the state’s most populous county, said she believes officials are actually “behind in this discussion.”
“Any time that someone has a conviction on their record of something that is now legal, it should be expunged.” – George to NECN
George suggested that prosecutors in states that have legalized cannabis should be more open to erasing charges for what is now legal. Several states – with legalized cannabis, medical cannabis programs, and even some without broad reforms – have moved to expunge low level cannabis charges:
- An Illinois House Committee approved a measure last month to erase low-level convictions for cannabis and paraphernalia possession.
- The Virginia Senate, in February, passed a bill that would expunge charges for first-time cannabis offenders for $150.
- Officials in San Francisco, Sonoma County, and Alameda County, California have taken proactive approaches to the criminal reforms included in Prop. 64, which legalized cannabis for adults in the state. Those officials have moved to make the expungement process easier and expand the scope of the reforms. The state legislature is considering a bill that would force courts to expunge all records of those convicted of possession of up to 28.6 grams of cannabis and 8 grams of concentrates.
- Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a broad expungement bill; recreational cannabis sales are set to begin in the state July 1.
- Alaska’s House passed a bill last month to restrict public access to some criminal records for simple cannabis possession. That measure is currently in a Senate committee.
- Officials from Seattle and Pierce County, Washington have moved to expunge cannabis conviction records; although the legislature has failed to act on a bill to for statewide reforms for two years.
- Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper last year pardoned 14 individuals charged with cannabis possession and in February announced he was considering 40 more.
- In 2016, Missouri – which does not have legal cannabis access for adults and only a limited medical cannabis program – approved legislation to expunge the majority of the state’s low-level cannabis convictions.
- Oregon approved its own expungement bill in 2015.
George does not have a timeline for the reforms but was clear that she would only expunge misdemeanors and not more serious felonies.