The Alaskan Supreme Court has an order that will take effect on May 1, 2023. It will allow the Court to clear many low-level cannabis records from Courtview, the state’s online court records database. As a result, many Alaskan individuals could benefit from increased employment opportunities following this decision.
With more states legalizing marijuana use, more consumers have seen similar actions sweep through the United States. For example, Alaska recently took legal measures before this expungement order. However, incidents involving anyone younger than 21 will not see expungements for convictions involving possessing over an ounce of marijuana.
Alaskan legislative bodies have unsuccessfully attempted similar moves to expunge cannabis-related convictions until now. For example, the most recent failed attempt happened last year. That attempt involved a bill hiding cannabis records in Courtview and during criminal background checks. Though it passed in the House of Representatives with a 30-8, it failed in the Alaska State Senate before the 2022 session closed.
The 2023 legislative session saw another bill seeking a similar result: blocking cannabis-related convictions from view in Courtview. However, the Alaskan Supreme Court’s recent order eliminated the need for this bill because it enacts the same result. Unfortunately, the order affects only the state’s online database. This difference leaves courthouse records and formal background searches unaffected, allowing access to these records.
Ultimately, the Alaska Department of Public Safety maintains the state’s official criminal records, not the courts. While this order does limit access by the general public, several state legislators feel they need to do more to protect people with cannabis-related convictions. As a result, they want to add another bill. According to these lawmakers, a properly-designed bill could eliminate the chance that these convictions appear in criminal background searches.
For a long time, the Supreme Court of Alaska has afforded greater protection to cannabis users than many states. Back in 1975, justices opted to affirm Alaskan rights to possess and consume small amounts of cannabis. However, they could do so solely in private residences. Alaska’s constitution protects citizens’ privacy rights, supporting decisions that allowed the Court to legalize the personal use of marijuana.
It remains uncertain whether legislation will pass additional protections for marijuana users. Until the legislative bodies decide, cannabis convictions will continue appearing in criminal background checks. As such, employers reviewing these reports should consider the relevance of these charges to their open positions.
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