50-State Comparison: Marijuana Legalization, Decriminalization, Expungement, and Clemency
Updated: March 2020
Adapted with permission from Alana Rosen, High Time for Criminal Justice Reform (Feb. 1, 2019), with updates to reflect legislative changes.
†As used here, legalization means certain acts are lawful; decriminalization means certain acts are punishable by fines but not incarceration (i.e. as infractions, petty offenses, minor misdemeanors, civil offenses, etc). In all states, certain acts remain punishable by incarceration: see NORML’s digest of marijuana penalties. Medical marijuana laws are not covered here.
*Does not include general record relief or pardon authorities that may cover marijuana among other offenses.
For more details on a state’s expungement or pardon laws, click the state abbreviation.
|State||Marijuana legalization or decriminalization†|
(26 states, DC, 1 territory)
|Expungement or sealing laws specific to marijuana, decriminalized, or legalized offenses*|
(17 states & D.C.)
|Pardon programs specific to marijuana*
|AK||Legalization and decriminalization.|
Alaska Stat. §§ 17.38.20-17.38.70.
|CA||Legalization and decriminalization. |
Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 11357-11362.9.
|Prob. 64 (2016) legalized marijuana and authorized individuals who had completed a sentence for a wide range of marijuana offenses to petition the court to either have the conviction dismissed and sealed, resentenced, and/or redesignated, depending on the offense. Cal. Health & Safety Code § 11361.8(e). Relief is mandatory, and no hearing is required. § 11361.8(f), (g). |
AB 1793 (2018) replaced the requirement of individualized filings with an authority for systematic relief. Cal. Health & Safety Code § 11361.9. By July 1, 2019, the Department of Justice was to identify eligible cases for possible resentencing, redesignation, or dismissal and sealing, and notify the prosecution of all eligible cases in its jurisdiction. By July 1, 2020, the prosecution must determine and notify the court and public defender whether it will challenge any case on the basis of eligibility or that the person presents “an unreasonable risk to public safety.” The public defender must make “a reasonable effort” to notify the person whose potential relief is being challenged. If the prosecution does not challenge a case, the court automatically provides relief.
A 1976 statute provides that records of arrest and conviction for possession or transportation of small amounts of marijuana, adult or juvenile, “shall not be kept beyond two years from the date of the conviction or from the date of the arrest if there was no conviction . .. “ Cal. Health & Safety Code §11361.5. If the offense occurs on school property by a person under the age of 18, “the records shall be retained until the offender attains the age of 18 years at which time the records shall be destroyed.” Prop. 64 broadened this authority to apply to most marijuana offenses by individuals under age 18, and clarified that records must be “purged from the statewide criminal databases.” Id.
|CO||Legalization and decriminalization.|
CO Const. Art. 18, § 16(3)-(4); Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-18-406.
|Courts must, upon petition, seal the records of misdemeanor marijuana possession or use offenses that would not have been crimes if committed on or after December 10, 2012. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-710. Anyone convicted or charged with underage possession or consumption of marijuana may apply for sealing. § 18-13-122(13).|
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 21a-279a.
|Courts must, upon petition, order destruction of convictions and other criminal records in cases where the charges resulting in conviction have been decriminalized. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54-142d; See also State v. Spielberg, 323 Conn. 756, 762–63, 150 A.3d 1118, 1121 (2016) (holding that, unlike the general rules of erasure set forth in § 54-142a, § 54–142d authorizes complete erasure in cases where the conviction was for conduct that has been decriminalized, even if charges dismissed in the case involved conduct that remains criminal, since § 54-142d contains no exception analogous to § 54-142a(g)).|
11 Del. C. 16 § 4764(c).
|"(i) Any person who was convicted of a single criminal offense under subsection (c) of this section, as it is in effect on or before July 31, 2019, and who was under the age of 21 at the time of the offense may, upon reaching the age of 21, apply for an expungement of the record of the conviction and any indicia of arrest to the court in which the person was convicted. For violations of a criminal offense under subsection (c) of this section, as it is in effect on or before July 31, 2019, an order granting such expungement shall issue upon proof that the person has reached the age of 21, unless the person has failed to comply with the sentencing order or the person has another charge under this section which remains outstanding . . . . (j) Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, any person who prior to December 18, 2015, was convicted of a single offense arising from an original charge under this section or any predecessor statute, law or ordinance prohibiting the possession, use or consumption of marijuana or any controlled substance or counterfeit controlled substance classified in § 4714(d)(19) of this title shall be eligible for mandatory expungement of the records of the conviction and all indicia of arrest pursuant to the provisions of § 4373 of Title 11, provided the applicant is otherwise eligible for mandatory expungement as specified therein . . . ." 11 Del. C. § 4764(i),(j).|
|DC||Legalization (Congress has blocked aspects, including sales) and decriminalization.|
D.C. Law §§ 48–904.01, 48–1201; see, e.g., Pub. L. 113-235 (federal rider).
|Persons with conviction and non-conviction records for decriminalized and legalized offenses may file motions to seal the records. D.C. Law § 16-803.02 ("(a) A person arrested for, charged with, or convicted of a criminal offense pursuant to the [D.C.] Code or...Municipal Regulations that was decriminalized or legalized after the date of the arrest, charge, or conviction may file a motion to seal the record of the arrest, charge, conviction, and related Superior Court proceedings at any time. (1)(A) The Superior Court shall grant a motion to seal if: (i) The arrest was not made in connection with or did not result in any other [D.C.] Code or...Municipal Regulations charges or convictions against the person; and (ii) The arrest was not made in connection with or did not result in any other federal charges or convictions....In cases that do not meet the requirements of paragraph (1) of this subsection, the Superior Court may grant a motion to seal if it is in the interest of justice to do so....").|
Haw. Rev. Stat. § 712-1249.
|A court must grant expungement, upon motion, of a conviction for possession of three grams or less of marijuana (decriminalized offense), if no other charges were brought. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 706-622.5(5).|
|IL||Legalization and decriminalization. |
410 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 705/10-5.7, 20 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 550/4.
|In 2019, Illinois authorized the automatic expungement of arrests and convictions for “minor cannabis offenses,” defined as involving not more than 30 grams, no enhancements and no violence. Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 2630/5.2(i), (a)(1)(G-5). It also authorized expungement for misdemeanors and Level 4 felonies involving a greater amount of marijuana, upon petition by the individual affected or by the State’s Attorney.|
Non-conviction records: The State Police and other law enforcement agencies are directed to “automatically expunge” the record of arrests one year after the date of the arrest, if no charges were filed or were filed and subsequently vacated, or if the person was acquitted. If the police are unable to determine disposition, they must expunge the arrest. See Timeline established for automatic expungement: post 2013 arrests to be expunged by 1/1/2021, those between 2000 and 2013 by 1/1/23, and those prior to 2000 by 1/1/2025. See Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 2630/5.2(i)(1).
Minor conviction records: A tiered procedure is established whereby “minor cannabis offenses” are subject to an automatic expungement (through a pardon authorizing expungement) administered through the Prisoner Review Board, while those convicted of more serious marijuana offenses (misdemeanor and Class 4 felony) must file a petition seeking expungement from the court.
For convictions in the first category, the State Police must notify the Prisoner Review Board of convictions not associated with violence, the PRB in turn notifies the relevant State’s Attorney who may object on eligibility grounds only, and the PRB makes a confidential recommendation to the governor. When the governor has granted a pardon authorizing expungement, the PRB files with the court asking for expungement of the record. The court is responsible for notifying the individual at his or her last known address. See Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 2630/5.2(i)(2).
For marijuana offenses in the second category (misdemeanor and Class 4 felony), individuals must file a petition with the court, and expungement may be granted after a hearing where the court applies a balancing test. An individual may file “after completion of any non-financial sentence or non-financial condition imposed by the conviction.” State’s Attorneys are also authorized to file petitions to vacate and expunge the record of conviction. Civil legal aid organizations may file petitions including more than one name. In considering motions to vacate and expunge a conviction the court shall consider the reasons to retain the records, the person’s age, the person’s age at the time of conviction, and the specific adverse consequences if denied. Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 2630/5.2(i)(3)-(5).
|As discussed in the previous column, Illinois authorized automatic expungement of “minor cannabis offenses” which includes sending eligible convictions to the governor through the Prisoner Review Board for a pardon authorizing expungement. In December 2019, Governor Pritzker issued pardons to 11,017 people with eligible convictions.|
|ME||Legalization and decriminalization.|
Me. Rev Stat. Ann tit. 28-B § 1501.
Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 5-601(c)(2).
|A person may petition for expungement of a conviction if "the act on which the conviction was based is no longer a crime." Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc. § 10-105(a)(11). A person may petition for expungement of a conviction for marijuana possession (§ 5-601 of the Criminal Law Article) 4 years after satisfactory completion of sentence, including probation. § 10-105(a)(12), (c)(8).|
|MA||Legalization and decriminalization.|
Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 94G § 7, 13.
|Records of conviction for an offense "which is no longer a crime" may be sealed immediately upon request, “except in cases where the elements of the offense continue to be a crime under a different designation.” Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 276 § 100A.|
|MI||Legalization and decriminalization. |
Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 333.27955, 333.27960, 333.27965, et seq.
Minn. Stat. § 152.027(4).
|A person who was convicted of an offense prior the 1976 decriminalization of possession, or sale without renumeration, of 42.5 g or less of marijuana, and the conviction would have been a petty misdemeanor under the 1976 law, may petition for expungement. Minn. Stat. § 152.18.|
Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-139(c)(2)(a)(1).
Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 579.015, 579.074.
Neb. Rev. Stat. § 28-416(13)(a), 28-441.
|NV||Legalization and decriminalization. |
Nev. Rev. Stat. §§ 453.011 to 453.552.
|A person convicted of an offense that is “no longer punishable as a crime” may submit a request to the court to seal the record, which "shall" be granted unless there is an objection from the prosecutor, with a showing of good cause by clear and convincing evidence that the request should not be granted. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 179.271 (traffic offenses are excluded). No fee may be charged.|
N.H. Rev. Stat. § 318-B:2-c.
|A person who was arrested or convicted before September 16, 2017 for obtaining, purchasing, transporting, or possessing 3/4 ounce of marijuana or less (the decriminalized amount), may at any time petition the court to annul the arrest and court record. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 651:5-b.|
|NJ||A 2019 law (S4154) expands expungement eligibility to a broad range of marijuana and hashish convictions, directs for the development of an automatic "sealing" system for such convictions where all terms of the sentence have been completed (including payment of any financial assessment), and authorizes courts upon petition to seal records immediately upon completion of sentence. N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2C:52-2, 2C:52-3; P.L.2019, c.269, s.5-6 (S4154).|
N.M. Stat. Ann. § 30-31-23.
N.Y. Penal Law §§ 221.05, 221.10.
|SB 6579 (2019) provides for automatic vacatur and expungement of convictions under N.Y. Penal Law § 221.05 or § 221.10 (offenses now decriminalized) for possession of two ounces or less of marijuana. See N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law § 160.50(5). The expunged record is only available to the subject of the record and is destroyed upon written request. The law provides for an information campaign to inform the public of automatic marijuana vacatur and expungement.|
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-95(d)(4).
N.D. Cent. Code § 19-03.1-23(7)(d)(1).
|A Pardon Advisory Board policy adopted in 2019 authorizes people convicted of marijuana possession who have had no convictions in the past five years to "submit a Summary Pardon Application" (form, July 2019). In Jan. 2020, the governor pardoned 16 people under this authority (of 26 recommended by the board). As of Feb. 2020, the board was seeking more applicants. The Office of the Governor estimates that as many as 175,000 people may be eligible for relief.|
Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2925.11(C)(3)(a).
|OR||Legalization and decriminalization.|
Or. Rev. Stat. Chapters 475B and 475.
|Oregon has enacted streamlined procedures and eligibility criteria for setting aside and reducing marijuana convictions. See Or. Rev. Stat. § 137.226 (persons with convictions for possession, delivery, or manufacture of marijuana are eligible to set aside the conviction after one year if the defendant was under 21 at the time of conviction, has not been convicted of another offense excluding traffic violations, and has fully complied with and performed the sentence); id. (for purposes of set-aside, marijuana offenses committed before April 21, 2017, are classified as if the conduct occurred after 21, 2017, and decriminalized offenses are treated as class C misdemeanors); SB 420 (individuals with convictions committed before July 1, 2015 for marijuana possession of less than 1 oz, who have fully served the sentence, may apply for set-aside without paying any fee, file fingerprints, or complete a background check or identification); SB 975 (a person may file a motion to reduce the offense classification of a marijuana conviction if, since the conviction, the offense has been reduced and the person has fully served the sentence). The Oregon Circuit Courts have set up an online filing system for marijuana set-asides and reductions.|
|PA||The Pennsylvania Board of Pardons has established an expedited review program for certain non-violent marijuana convictions.|
R.I. Gen. Laws § 21-28-4.01(c)(2)(iii).
|A person may immediately file a motion for the expungement of records “related to an offense that has been decriminalized subsequent to the date of their conviction.” R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-1.3-2(g). The court must hold a hearing, and if it finds that all conditions of the sentence have been completed, included the payment of fines, fees, the court shall order the expungement without cost to the petitioner. § 12-1.3-3(e).|
|VT||Legalization and decriminalization.|
Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 18 §§ 4230-4230g.
|A person who “was convicted of an offense for which the underlying conduct is no longer prohibited by law or designated as a criminal offense” may petition for expungement immediately upon completion of sentence, including satisfaction of any restitution. Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13 § 7602(a)(1)(B), (d). Expungement “shall” be ordered “unless the court finds that expungement would not be in the interest of justice.” Id.|
Virgin Islands Code Ann. tit. 19, § 29-607a(b).
|WA||Legalization and decriminalization.|
Wash. Rev. Code Chapter 69.50.
|Any person convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana offense, who was 21 years or older at the time of the offense, may immediately apply to the sentencing court to vacate the conviction, and if the person is eligible, the court "shall" do so. Wash. Rev. Code § 9.96.060(5).||Under his Marijuana Justice Initiative, Gov. Inslee has pardoned a number of people convicted of marijuana possession offenses no longer criminal under state law (the program covers people with a sole conviction for adult (21+) misdemeanor marijuana possession, from between Jan. 1, 1998-Dec. 5, 2012, prosecuted under WA state law).|