Congress Introduces Legislation to Expunge Marijuana Record

The Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act was introduced in Congress on December 2, 2021, to encourage local and state governments to expunge the criminal records of tens of millions of people who have previously been convicted of marijuana-related crimes.

Led by Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Dave Joyce (R-OH), the bill provides $20 million in cash assistance for states and counties to finance the process of reviewing and sealing cannabis convictions.

In more than a dozen states, laws have been passed to automatically expunge low-level marijuana convictions. According to state officials, approximately 2.2 million cannabis convictions were vacated under these laws within the last two years.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says that marijuana arrests represent half of all drug arrests in the United States. Out of 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, a staggering 88 percent involved simple possession.

In 2020 alone, more than 350,000 Americans were arrested by local and state police for cannabis-related offenses, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. Approximately 91 percent of those arrested were charged with simple possession.

Additionally, there is a significant racial disparity in marijuana arrest. A 2020 analysis by ACLU found that African Americans are nearly four times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite similar usage rates. However, black people in some states were six, eight, or nearly ten times more likely to be arrested. In 31 states, there were larger racial disparities in 2018 compared to 2010.

In a 2021 analysis of NYPD data, 94 percent of all arrests in the New York City’s five boroughs were of people of color. In a 2021 analysis from the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, black people in Wisconsin were 4.3 times more likely than their white counterparts to be convicted of a marijuana offense.

Unfortunately, having a marijuana conviction on a criminal record can cause irreparable damage to a person’s life and reputation. It can be difficult to find employment, obtain housing, apply for college, or live a normal life.

If you have been previously convicted of a crime in Miami and interested in getting your record expunged, call Jonathan Blecher, P.A. at (305) 330-1976 or fill out our online contact form today to request a free case evaluation. I have defended thousands of criminal cases since 1982!