It has only been a few months since the D.C. Council voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, but lawmakers in the nation’s capital are already taking the issue of pot reform to the next level by approving a measure that would seal the criminal records of those convicted of marijuana-related offenses.
Councilmember David Grosso recently introduced a bill that would close the criminal records of offenders convicted of a non-violent marijuana-related crime – a necessary move he believes would help thousands of people. The council unanimously approved the bill.
During a prepared statement, Grosso explained that expunging the records of non-violent marijuana offenders was the next logical step for the District of Columbia.
“Our criminal justice system has relied on vengeance and punishment,” he said. “If we are going to decriminalize or legalize marijuana under the guise of social justice, we have to allow people who are disproportionately impacted by the old laws to go back to living their lives without consequence or stigma.”
If the bill is approved, it would seal the records of “residents with a non-violent misdemeanor or felony possession of marijuana as their only prior criminal history,” which stands to benefit about 20,000 people, according to Grosso’s office.
D.C. criminal defense attorneys, like Paul Zukerberg, believe the measure would be a huge benefit to people who have found it difficult to find jobs or secure housing because of a minor pot offense. Yet, he is concerned that it will be a daunting task to completely erase criminal records after they have lingered in public databases for so many years.
“It’s not a panacea, but it’s a huge improvement,” said Zukerberg.
The proposal comes just a month before D.C. voters hit the polls to decide on Initiative 71, a plan that aims to legalize the recreational use and cultivation of marijuana without establishing a retail market.
Have you ever been convicted due to cannabis? Do you think other states should also seal records for pot-related offenses? Share your thoughts!