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More Than 2m Low-Level Cannabis Offenses Expunged Since 2018

State and local US courts have expunged or sealed the records of an estimated 2.3 million cannabis cases since 2018, new analysis from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) suggests.

Since 2018, 24 US states and the District of Columbia have provided legal routes for low-level cannabis convictions to be expunged, sealed, annulled or otherwise quashed. 

A further 100,000 pardons are also understood to have been granted for cannabis offenses in recent years, though these do not remove convictions from a person’s record.

However, NORML points out that this is just the tip of the iceberg, estimating that of the estimated 29m cannabis-related arrests made since 1965, around 90% were for low-level possession offenses.

While some states, including Connecticut, California, Illinois, Missouri and New Jersey have legislation which require the government to review previous records and identify those who meet the criteria for expungement, other states such as Arizona and Massachusetts require citizens to petition the courts to have their records reviewed.

“Hundreds of thousands of Americans unduly carry the burden and stigma of a past conviction for behavior that most Americans, and a growing number of states, no longer consider to be a crime,” NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said.

“Our sense of justice and our principles of fairness demand that public officials and the courts move swiftly to right the past wrongs of cannabis prohibition and criminalization.”

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