Living with a marijuana conviction after legalization (updated)
Jacob Sullum, senior editor at Reason, has written a fabulous article about expungement of marijuana convictions in places that have since legalized marijuana: so far 10 states, DC, and the Northern Mariana Islands have legalized. The piece is currently available to Reason subscribers and will be available to the public in the coming weeks (we will update this post with the link).
Sullum tells the stories of eleven individuals, from the jurisdictions that have legalized, who describe how their marijuana convictions have impacted their lives before and after legalization. He documents the lingering legal and social sanctions that burden people long after they have served their sentences, sanctions that “seem especially unjust and irrational in the growing number of U.S. jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.”
The piece explores the varying extent to which states offer forms of relief: from meager in most jurisdictions to generous in California to nearly non-existent in Alaska. States that allow for expungement often include only people with low-level offenses and “put the onus on prohibition’s victims to seek the sealing or expungement of their criminal records, a process that can be complicated, expensive, and time-consuming.” Sullum quotes CCRC’s executive director Margaret Love on how difficult it can be to access expungement, and how collateral consequences can function as a system of punishment “that offers no way out, that never ends.”