Marijuana legalization and record clearing in 2022

CCRC is pleased to announce a new report on recent cannabis-specific record sealing and expungement reforms in the past 18 months. The report, extending CCRC’s fruitful collaboration with the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center at The Ohio State University, is available here

An accompanying infographic (reproduced at the end of this postr) summarizes the report’s findings, and includes a color-coded US map showing which states have enacted cannabis-specific record-clearing provisions.  To supplement the map, the report includes an appendix classifying and describing marijuana-specific record clearing statutes in all 50 states, based on CCRC’s 50-state comparison chart on “Marijuana Legalization, Decriminalization, Expungement and Clemency.” 

To put our new report in context, CCRC and DEPC reported 18 months ago on an “unprecedented period for policymaking at the intersection of marijuana legalization and criminal record reform in the first months of 2021,” with four states (New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Virginia) legalizing marijuana possession and at the same time providing criminal record relief for past convictions along with a variety of social equity provisions. 

Our report shows this trend continuing into 2022. Since our 2021 report, four additional states (Connecticut, Maryland, Missouri, and Rhode Island) have adopted similar record-clearing provisions in connection with adult-use cannabis legalization, authorizing sealing and expungement provisions that in most cases extend well beyond convictions for legalized conduct.

All four states made at least some relief automatic, removing the burden of a criminal record from many individuals while raising the bar on standards for marijuana record relief nationwide. Like the four states discussed in our earlier report, these four also address racial disparities in marijuana criminalization by directing tax revenue and business opportunities for legal marijuana to individuals and communities disproportionately affected by criminal law enforcement. During this same timeframe, three additional states (California, Colorado, and Massachusetts) enhanced their existing marijuana-specific record sealing statutes.

The report summarizes the cannabis-specific record clearing provisions enacted since publication of our earlier report in the spring of 2021 in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri and Rhode Island.

Missouri’s record-clearing provisions, adopted through a ballot initiative and effective immediately, are particularly impressive: individuals currently incarcerated for possession of up to three pounds of marijuana may petition for release and expungement (with certain offenses excepted), most individuals currently under supervision are automatically released from their sentence and their record expunged, and individuals convicted of all marijuana-related misdemeanors and most felonies have their records automatically expunged upon completion of sentence. See Section III(C) of the Missouri profile from the Restoration of Rights Project for additional information about this extraordinary ballot initiative.

As in the 2021 report, we include laws authorizing marijuana-specific automatic record clearing provisions that are not scheduled to be implemented until some future date, with an appropriate notation. We focus exclusively on authorities that specifically expunge
or seal marijuana convictions, and do not take into consideration more general record clearing laws that may also apply to marijuana convictions (frequently more broadly).  Additional information about state record relief laws, including those that apply specifically to marijuana records, can be found in the state profiles in the Restoration of Rights Project.

In addition to the 50-state overview of marijuana-specific record clearing provisions, the appendix also includes a summary of the marijuana-specific pardon initiatives undertaken by several states in recent years.

Read the report

Explore the infographic (click to enlarge)