Local officials in Clark County (population: 2.2 million) have awarded $1.2 million in grants to a trio of non-profit groups for the purposes of reviewing and sealing the records of those with low-level cannabis convictions. The grant funding was made available through the collection of marijuana-related sales tax revenues.
A 2019 state law permits those convicted of marijuana-specific activities which have since been decriminalized or legalized to submit a written request to the court to have those records sealed. However, relatively few Nevadans have successfully navigated the process. The newly awarded grants seek to facilitate a process whereby criminal records can be automatically reviewed and sealed absent petitioners taking any action.
NORML has long called for the establishment of cannabis-related expungement programs, opining, “Branding individuals, many of whom are at an age when they are just beginning their professional careers, as lifelong criminals results in a litany of lost opportunities including the potential loss of employment, housing, voting rights, professional licensing, and student aid and serves no legitimate societal purpose.”
To date, more than 20 states have enacted legislation explicitly permitting or facilitating the process of having select marijuana convictions expunged, vacated, otherwise set aside, or sealed from public view. As a result of these laws, state and local officials nationwide have moved to either expunge or seal the records of over two million people with state-specific cannabis convictions. However, fewer than one-third of these programs provide automatic relief.
“Millions of citizens unduly carry the undue burden and stigmatization of a past conviction for behavior that is no longer considered to be a crime,” NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “Our sense of justice and our principles of fairness demand that officials move swiftly to right the past wrongs of cannabis prohibition and criminalization.”
According to nationwide polling data, most Americans — and a supermajority of Democrats — favor expunging marijuana-related convictions for non-violent offenders.
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