Saint Louis Struggles to Process Expungements for Amended Marijuana Law
September 21, 2023
Voters in Saint Louis approved Amendment 3 last November, amending the legalized use of marijuana for adults. Its approval also signaled the start of automatic expungement for several non-violent cannabis-related offenses. Since taking effect on December 8, 2022, over 900 cannabis-related criminal convictions have received automatic expungement.
However, the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court spokesperson discovered a concerning fact: The Court found more cases ineligible for expungement than eligible. Furthermore, completing the automatic expungement for records has proven complicated. According to the spokesperson, the Saint Louis Circuit Court clerks have reviewed over 7,000 cases.
Progress So Far
Of these cases, 977 have had their convictions expunged, but 6,100 did not qualify for expungement. The spokesperson also explained why so many cases proved ineligible for expungement: Of the 21,000 records identified by the 22nd Circuit Court, many involved drugs other than marijuana. In addition, he described how the process required a thorough search through each record.
The clerks had to examine each record individually and determine whether it met the expungement requirements. Some crimes involving marijuana do not qualify for expungement, such as driving under the influence or selling marijuana to minors. Another issue prolonging the process involves multiple charges where just one relates to marijuana. In these cases, the worker has to locate the marijuana charge, redact the part of the case pertaining to marijuana, and leave the others in place.
The spokesperson also revealed that the older files made the process more challenging. Though workers have combed through digital files thus far, the older records will require them to search through physical documents. Some documents are not stored in the courthouse, complicating matters.
Due to the complications, the Saint Louis court system received a grant from the state of $140,000. This grant helped pay for part-time clerks to help process the expungements as quickly as possible. According to Amendment 3, the deadline to have all of the misdemeanor convictions expunged was June 8. The deadline for expunging felonies is December 8. The spokesman stated that the clerks are working hard to meet the deadlines.
Though Amendment 3 only expunges marijuana-related offenses, employers should consider whether other convictions are relevant to open positions. The best way for employers to start a second chance hiring program is to work with a background check company experienced in this area. The right partner can help hire the best workers for available positions.
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