In states where marijuana is now legal, many people still have small-scale possession convictions on their records.
Advocates for "expungement" face uphill battles, from Washington state to Washington, DC Marijuana won in November’s midterm elections, with Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia joining Colorado and Washington in legalizing it.
“It’s impossible for people to ignore really, really bad facts in a case.” Efforts to provide relief to people with prior pot convictions are likely to be complicated by other crimes on their records.
“Most people convicted of marijuana are convicted of other things that are still illegal,” says Sam Kamin, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Denver and one of the nation’s leading experts in marijuana regulation.
He expects the Colorado supreme court to take up the issue next year and possibly reverse the appeals court ruling.
Emeson says that he was able to separate the marijuana charge from the others in his case, characterizing them as “relatively not that bad.” Emeson acknowledges that child abuse is a serious charge, but he says that courts often see much worse.
But a ruling by the Colorado court of appeals in March could provide limited relief for people with pot convictions.
The ruling stemmed from a 2010 court case that involved a woman who was charged with child abuse along with possessing methamphetamine and marijuana.
“I’ve tried pretty hard to find work, and when you’re going against people who have nothing on their record and you do, you’re not going to get it.” Pickel’s California medical marijuana card didn’t get him out of the charges.
Proponents of “expungement”—wiping records clean—argue that the voters of these states made it clear that possessing small amounts of marijuana should not be illegal and therefore people who have prior convictions should get a second chance.
Opponents argue that people should abide by laws until they are changed.
Their crimes, not surprisingly, often involve possession or trafficking of large amounts of pot or other drugs.
Oregon lawmakers will begin grappling with this problem when they meet in the new year to discuss the implementation of the state’s pot legalization measure, says state Sen.