Overturning cannabis convictions help in securing employment and other basic rights

By @chelean on
Background check
Several US states are beginning to overturn cannabis related convictions, which have effectively stripped those with criminal records of their ability to be self-sustaining. Creative Commons

Widespread support for cannabis has reached an all-time high, according to the Pew Research Center’s study, which revealed that 62 percent of Americans support the removal of cannabis prohibition. This marks the peak of people shifting their stance on cannabis and doubling the 31 percent that were pro-cannabis back in 2000.

Today, cannabis is more accessible than ever and has led to the rise of many distributors including CBD brand PotNetwork Holdings, Inc. (OTCMKTS:POTN) , which provides a variety of goods such as edibles, tinctures, salves, and vapes. Research on the medicinal properties of cannabis has led to increasing support as well as the popularity of cannabis goods, with POTN leading the way with non-psychoactive CBD products that can help promote well-being and relief from various health conditions.

Unsurprisingly, millennials were the most supportive of legalised cannabis with 74 percent throwing their weight behind the controversial plant. Other major supporters included roughly 70 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of college dropouts, as well as 80 percent of those who were non-religious.

Republicans saw increased approval as well, with 45 percent in favour of legalisation as opposed to the 39 percent from three years ago.

“They see cannabis being sold legally in regulated businesses and they recognise it is a much more preferable system,” said Marijuana Policy Project Spokesman Mason Tvert. “The idea of arresting and punishing adults for consuming marijuana is becoming increasingly unpopular, and elected officials are taking notice.”

With people continuing to support a legal cannabis market, this has major benefits such as minimising black market activity and even resulting in less criminal activity related to cannabis transactions. Increasing support of the market also helps dispel negative stigmas and stereotypes related to cannabis use and has also prompted legislators to overturn previous cannabis convictions that are unfairly holding back many people from their pursuit of employment and other critical needs.

In the clear

Removing previous convictions is a positive step in cannabis enforcement; this helps promote the plant's medicinal value rather than the classified substance that it still is today. Not only that, but removing these convictions will help law authorities redirect their efforts into more pressing matters than prosecuting cannabis users for mere possession.

A motion proposed by attorney Pete Holmes was approved by the Seattle Municipal Court, which expunged the criminal records of 542 people who were slapped with a misdemeanour offence for cannabis possession.

All seven judges responded positively, with presiding Judge Ed McKenna responded with inquiries about “how the bench can legally and procedurally address the interest of justice.” It was clear that they supported the motion but were unsure as to how and if they could proceed, with Judge McKenna explicitly stating their difficulty in how to resolve the issue.

During the deliberations, they brought up potential issues such as consent as the cases involved had never actually stepped in court to contest the charge. After careful consideration of all issues involved, the court decided to utilise a system that would send out notices to the addresses of all related cases in order to give them an opportunity to contest on an individual basis or even the overturning itself.

For those who didn’t appear in court within 33 days, their convictions would be automatically expunged. Automatically overturning convictions would help provide fresh opportunities to those who had been subjected to their negative effects for so long.

Larger intent

While the Seattle case was a solid victory, it only affected 542 people and only misdemeanour cases. Those with more serious convictions suffer heavily as the door for employment is all but shut out for them, making it nearly impossible to make ends meet for themselves and their families.

This is where Code for America comes in, which is a nonprofit that was originally established in 2009 as a way to bridge professionals in the tech industry with government officials. They eventually took on criminal justice cases, which lead them to launch their Clear My Record program, which aims to remove 250,000 marijuana convictions by 2019, starting in California.

The creators realised that there was a need for an efficient expungement process as it typically took extensive amounts of time and money to proceed. This represented a major obstacle for those with criminal offences as the current system continued to frustrate those looking for some assistance.

Cannabis-related misdemeanours still show up on criminal background checks, making the mere act of possession a massive hindrance to finding adequate employment, housing, or taking out loans to sustain their wellbeing.

"There are literally millions of people in California alone who can’t really break out of the cycle of poverty and incarceration," Code for America Founder Jennifer Pahlka noted. "You need to have a job to do that, and so few jobs are open to people with that on their records."

Enhanced efficiency

By partnering up with the San Francisco District Attorney's office, Clear My Record will establish an effective framework to meet all documentation requirements needed for automatic conviction removals. They are currently overseeing 4,940 marijuana felony cases hailing back to 1975, which will help break the cycle amidst the surge in legal cannabis support.

Their technology will be a godsend in locating and reviewing complex felony cases for eligibility, as it allows for much more efficient review and will also automatically fill out the proper forms and documentation to apply for a motion. This will allow the DA office to review past convictions to identify further candidates for conviction appeals.

While focusing on California, the program intends to provide their technology to other locations with the goal of addressing non-marijuana related convictions as well in order to give people a fresh lease on life. Their ultimate goal is to provide criminal justice services to ensure that people can successfully move on from a past conviction that they remain shackled to.

With the overturning of convictions in states like Seattle and California, this will help those who have been unjustly bereft of their rights to find employment and sustain their personal wellbeing. Programs like Clear My Record will also make it easier than ever for people with marijuana-related convictions to have them automatically overturned at a much more efficient and feasible manner than ever before, allowing them the chance to recover and rebuild.

IBT Australia does not endorse any product or practice mentioned above. The article is based on press releases sent for consideration.