A new NORML report looks at marijuana expungements, a Kentucky bill that would legalize pot possession and home grows but not commercial sales is filed, and more.Marijuana Policy
Updated NORML Report Highlights Over 2.3 Million Marijuana-Related Expungements. Since 2018, state courts have either expunged or sealed the records of more than two million marijuana-related cases, according to an updated analysis by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
According to publicly available data, state and local courts have taken action on an estimated 2.3 million marijuana-related cases. States that have been most active in providing relief to those with past convictions include California, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia.
Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws in recent years providing explicit pathways to either expunge, seal, annul, or otherwise set aside the records of those with low-level marijuana convictions. In some jurisdictions -- such as California, Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, and New Jersey -- courts automatically review past records and notify those who meet the state's criteria for expungement. In other jurisdictions -- such as Arizona and Massachusetts -- laws require those seeking legal relief to petition the courts to have their records reviewed and vacated.
NORML estimates that state and local police have made more than 29 million marijuana-related arrests since 1965. Of those arrested, some 90 percent were charged with low-level cannabis possession offenses.
"Hundreds of thousands of Americans unduly carry the burden and stigma of a past conviction for behavior that most Americans, and a growing number of states, no longer consider to be a crime," NORML's Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. "Our sense of justice and our principles of fairness demand that public officials and the courts move swiftly to right the past wrongs of cannabis prohibition and criminalizatihon."
In December, President Joe Biden issued an expanded pardon proclamation for those seeking forgiveness for certain federal marijuana-related convictions. (The President had previously issued a more limited proclamation in 2022 and the Justice Department has opened an online portal for eligible applicants.) In his proclamations, he also encouraged Governors to issue similar pardons to those with state-level cannabis convictions. Public records indicate that elected officials have issued an estimated 100,000 marijuana-related pardons in recent years. However, unlike expungements, pardons do not remove a conviction from one's record.
The full text of the updated report, Marijuana Pardons and Expungements: By the Numbers, is available from NORML.
Kentucky Lawmaker Introduces Recreational Marijuana Legalization Bill. State Rep. Nima Kulkarni (D) has filed a marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 72. The measure would legalize the possession and use of up to an ounce of weed by people 21 and over and grow up to five plants at home, but would not allow for commercial sales.
The bill would also legalize the possession of up to five grams of cannabinoids derived from hemp or marijuana and products containing up to 1,000 milligrams of delta-8 THC or delta-9 THC.
"For decades, the failed and irrational War on Drugs has ensured that we have arrested, prosecuted and jailed millions of Americans for low level nonviolent drug offenses," Kulkarni said.
People who possess more than an ounce of weed could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor and face up to 45 days in jail, and people caught selling more than an ounce but less than eight ounces would face a Class A misdemeanor for a first offense and a Class D felony for subsequent offenses. Harsher penalties would apply for amounts above eight ounces. Similarly, growing more than five pot plants would be a Class D felony, and home growers caught with more than an ounce would face civil penalties.
The bill is now before the House Committee on Committees.
Poll Finds Half of Australians Favor Allowing Home Marijuana Cultivation. A new YouGov poll has support for the legalization of home marijuana cultivation at 50 percent and support for decriminalization at 54 percent. Support was consistent across states and age groups, with only those over 65 not supporting the measures.
The poll comes as the New South Wales parliament ponders a proposal to legalize the cultivation of up to six plants at home and allowing the sharing of plants with friends. Two other state parliaments have seen similar bills introduced in the last weeks of 2023.
The poll found the strongest support for marijuana reforms among young people and Green Party voters.
"This experimental research shows that a majority of Australian voters support both proposals; decriminalization of cannabis for personal use at 54 percent, and legalization of cannabis cultivation for personal use at 50 percent," said YouGov director of polling Amir Daftari.