July 9, 2024

Two federal lawmakers have filed a bill called the Marijuana Misdemeanor Expungement Act that could expunge federal convictions for low-level marijuana offenses. House Representatives Kelly Armstrong and Troy A. Carter Sr. introduced this bill.

Should it become law, it would create a process for expunging low-level marijuana convictions and clear the non-felony marijuana offenses that still appear in the federal system. The sponsors stressed how this measure “would deliver justice for countless Americans whose lives have been disrupted and deprived because of a misdemeanor marijuana offense.”

Representative Carter supported this stance, claiming, “No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.” He argued that “This bipartisan bill will restore justice to millions of Americans who have suffered excessive secondary consequences associated with marijuana-related misdemeanors.”

Representative Carter also explained the effects of these consequences, claiming, “These misdemeanors, even without a conviction, can restrict the ability to access educational aid, housing assistance, occupational licensing, and even foster parenting. Delivering justice for people who have been impacted by marijuana-related misdemeanors is a vital part of comprehensive cannabis reform.”

In 2022, the President pardoned individuals with federal convictions related to simple marijuana possession. This act restored the civil rights people lost due to the related convictions. He also followed this executive order with an expanded order in 2023 to address minor violations. However, pardons do not remove criminal records from public view, so these convictions can still appear on background checks.

Appearing on these reports can still impact an individual’s ability to obtain work or housing. Representatives Armstrong and Carter Sr. reintroduced the Marijuana Misdemeanor Expungement Act to address this issue by removing the convictions from public view. This reintroduction mirrors a version from two years ago that failed to gain traction.

Some speculate this bill has better chances since President Biden’s steps to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III. Reclassification became an option after the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice began reevaluating the drug. According to the departments, they studied the drug’s medical use, abuse, and dependency potential before recommending the change.

Encouraged by these changes, Representative Armstrong explained, “The Marijuana Misdemeanor Expungement Act gives a second chance to non-violent petty marijuana offenders after the sentence is complete and removes barriers to reentry while upholding the rule of law and supporting a more equitable society.”

Since its medical and recreational legalization in 38 states, many believe marijuana-related offenses should not appear on background checks. Supporting this stance, the bill’s sponsors intend to remove these offenses from impacted records.

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.