New York: Officials Moving to Clear Over 400,000 Past Marijuana Convictions


Marijuana and Justice

State officials have sealed nearly 200,000 marijuana-related criminal convictions and are in the process of expunging several hundred thousand more, according to data provided by the New York State Office of Cannabis Management.

According to an update provided by the agency at its most recent meeting: “Approximately 203,000 marijuana related charges are presently being suppressed from background searches and in process to be sealed or expunged. … This will add to the approximately 198,000 sealing accomplished as part of the first round of marijuana expungements for the 2019 expungement legislation.”

For decades, New York State — and New York City specifically — led the nation in the criminal prosecution of low-level marijuana offenders. In 2019, lawmakers amended marijuana possession penalties and established a system to facilitate the review and expungement of cannabis-specific criminal records. State lawmakers then legalized adult-use cannabis possession and retail sales this year.

New York is among several states in recent months to take steps to either vacate or seal marijuana-specific criminal records. In Illinois, officials have moved to expunge an estimated 500,000 marijuana-related records. California officials have cleared nearly 200,000 records, and New Jersey courts have expunged over 362,000 records. Last week, officials in Virginia announced that they have sealed some 330,000 low-level marijuana possession convictions and another 64,000 misdemeanor distribution convictions.

More than a dozen states have enacted legislation explicitly permitting or facilitating the process of having past marijuana convictions expunged, vacated, otherwise set aside, or sealed from public view. 



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