June 20, 2024

Missouri courts are months past the constitutional deadline for marijuana expungements. However, state records revealed how many counties have struggled and failed to clear all eligible offenses. This struggle is despite state lawmakers allocating $7 million additional funding to courts. The allocation intended to fund enough court clerks to expedite marijuana-related expungements.

The 2022 constitutional amendment that legalized marijuana consumption required state courts to examine prior offenses and expunge eligible records. This constitutional amendment provided a deadline of June 2023 for expunging eligible misdemeanor offenses and December 2023 for expunging eligible felonies. However, these deadlines came and passed, and many counties still struggled to complete these expungements.

Marijuana Expungement Efforts

Due to the tight deadline, Missouri legislators approved $4.5 million for state courts. This allocation would allow the courts to afford overtime and hire temporary workers to help with the expungement process. They later included another $2.5 million as a supplemental budget to ensure the courts could meet expectations. Despite the $7 million in funds, the county courts struggled.

According to the state courts, many case files date back to the 1970s. As such, clerks had to review digital and paper records, further challenging their ability to meet the deadlines. Some clerks also discovered mistakes in previous reviews that required repeat efforts to ensure the eligibility of some cases.

So far, the Missouri Supreme Court has recorded nearly 123,000 expunged marijuana cases. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court could not comment on how many records still await expungement. As a result, Missouri cannot offer a definitive timeline for completing the expungements. In addition, various counties have differing timelines for reviewing records. Consequently, countless eligible cases may wait a long time before clerks can identify and begin the process.

The Expungement Process

To officially complete the expungement, clerks must compose an order for the appropriate judge. Once approved, the clerk must contact all relevant law enforcement agencies. The agencies must remove the marijuana charges from their records. Unfortunately, expunging the marijuana charge will not affect any charges tied to the case. Once the agencies have removed these records, the clerk must inform the affected individual of the expunged record.

A few county clerks explained how reviewing all records, digital and paper, dating back to the 1970s, has proven labor-intensive and requires legal experience to sort through the files accurately. As such, they argued how the expectation of an “automatic expungement” process touted by supporters in 2022 did not exist. A Missouri Supreme Court clerk agreed with this sentiment, explicitly stating, “There is nothing automatic about [it].”


Information provided here is for educational and informational purposes only and should not constitute as legal advice. We recommend you contact your own legal counsel for any questions regarding your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.