After voters approved Amendment 3 last November, Missouri has made exceptional progress in its expungement process. Under this amendment, the state’s courts have processed 100,000 expungements for marijuana-related offenses. This progress comes one year after the passage of the state’s constitutional amendment.
Though this success is a significant milestone, many expungements are well past their deadline. Amendment 3 created expungements for non-violent marijuana-related misdemeanor charges. In addition, it required the courts to expunge these records by June 8, 2023. It also gave the courts a deadline of December 8, 2023, for qualifying marijuana-related felony charges.
The work of processing these expungements fell to the state’s Circuit Clerks, who reviewed each case file and determined which to expunge. However, many clerks expressed doubt about their ability to meet the deadlines. According to the Greene County circuit clerk, “We cannot meet that deadline, will not meet that deadline, it is not physically possible to meet that deadline.”
Furthermore, significant doubts arose before Amendment 3’s first deadline arrived. Many had expressed doubt about the courts’ ability to meet these deadlines. The June 2023 deadline further confirmed these doubts. By this deadline, the state’s courts expunged less than 50,000 marijuana cases. Of these cases, most were for misdemeanors. Though the courts remain behind even today, they have made significant progress. As a result, some advocates expressed that the courts’ continued act in good faith to process the expungements would satisfy them. However, other concerns have surfaced.
For example, people have expressed concerns about the process slowing down as the state moves to expunging felony charges. The state has already struggled to make determinations due to some cases not listing the amount of cannabis the defendant possessed. According to the courts, another challenge concerned records that involved charges besides those related to marijuana.
Hopes and Expectations
Regardless of these challenges, the state will continue progressing with its attempts to process the significant backlogs. The court workers have also expressed optimism that they will prevail in their efforts to expunge the marijuana-related records. Despite the optimism, it remains uncertain when the state may finish.
Until then, employers should consider reviewing their policies concerning marijuana. For example, they should reconsider policies that ban marijuana-related offenses, especially those the courts will expunge. One way to ensure updated policies that allow them to consider all eligible applicants is by working with a trusted employment screening provider. The right partner will provide accurate reports that comply with federal, state, and local laws.