Last week, a bill in Washington, D.C. that automatically expunges certain marijuana possession records became effective following a congressional review. The Second Chance Amendment Act was passed unanimously by the D.C. Council in December, and prior to its passage, an amendment was added that clarified the expungements language. It specified that records related to possession of “any quantity of marijuana” before D.C.’s legalization law took effect in February 2015 would need to be automatically expunged by the courts.
This law is significant because it will help thousands of D.C. residents who carry the burden and stigma of a past conviction for behavior that is no longer considered a crime. According to NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano, “our sense of justice and our principles of fairness demand that the courts move swiftly to right the past wrongs of cannabis prohibition and criminalization.”
While D.C. voters approved cannabis legalization in 2014, a long-standing appropriations rider from Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) has prevented local lawmakers from enacting commerce legislation. The Biden administration has proposed to keep banning D.C. from allowing cannabis sales for the third year in a row.
Despite this obstacle, D.C. lawmakers have taken steps to expand cannabis access, such as signing legislation in January to expand the District’s current medical cannabis program. However, it remains to be seen whether they will be successful in passing cannabis sales measures.
The automatic expungement of certain marijuana possession records in Washington, D.C. is a positive step towards justice and fairness for those who have been unfairly burdened with a criminal record for behavior that is now legal. Hopefully, lawmakers will continue to work towards expanding access to cannabis while respecting the autonomy of the District. (Source)
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