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Millions of Marijuana-Related Offenses Expunged

Thanks to changes in state-level marijuana policies, millions of Americans are no longer facing arrest and millions more have had their past marijuana convictions expunged.

Since 2018, state courts have either expunged or sealed the records of more than two million marijuana-related cases, according to an updated analysis provided by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

According to 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.

“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 criminalization.”

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.

Florida is not on the list, although Republican Governor Ron DeSantis claims Florida is the “freest” state.

NORML has long maintained that no one should be arrested for the responsible use of cannabis and that no one should carry the burden of a marijuana possession conviction on their record.

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