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Cannabis Conviction Expungement Clinics Coming to Buffalo, New York

Erie County in New York officials announced that they will hold a series in Buffalo of cannabis conviction exoneration clinics. These clinics are designed to allow those who were convicted for marijuana crimes in the past to erase their records. The Erie County District Attorney’s office and the Erie County Bar Association’s Assigned Legal Counsel Program will host two expungement clinics, one later this week and the second next month.

New York’s state legislators passed legislation last year to legalize recreational marijuana. It included provisions that allowed those who had been convicted of certain weed-related crimes to get their records erased. John Flynn, the Erie County District Attorney, stated in a Thursday statement that expungement could help to address the damage caused by the failed War on Drugs.

“Now that New York State has legalized recreational cannabis, we must act on behalf of the people whose lives have been unfairly impacted by a marijuana-related conviction on their criminal record,” said Flynn. “In particular, African Americans have been disproportionally impacted by the criminalization of cannabis, which has hindered their pursuit of certain opportunities in life. I hope to give a fresh start to our citizens who have been living with these criminal convictions by offering legal support to expedite the expungement or reduction process.”

Flynn’s office noted that a criminal conviction, even for a minor marijuana offense, can have a lasting impact on those affected. A criminal conviction can have a negative impact on your ability to find employment or housing. It can also affect eligibility for certain social programs, including financial aid.

“After years of injustice perpetrated against impoverished and minority populations through the criminalization of marijuana, the New York State Legislature legalized the possession and adult use of marijuana in 2021,” said Kevin M. Stadelmaier of the Erie County Bar Association Assigned Legal Counsel Program. “This landmark legislation takes dramatic steps to substantially reduce crime, improve negatively affected communities and redress unjust convictions which occurred under the now repealed statutory regime. A major component of the new law is the expungement of most marijuana related convictions; providing those clients affected by the former laws the ability to move forward unburdened.”

Some Cannabis Convictions are eligible for automatic expungement

New York’s cannabis legalization law allows for the automatic expungement of many pot-related offenses no longer illegal under state law, including low-level possession or sales of marijuana and cannabis cultivation. Other more serious cannabis crimes may be exonerated or reduced in sentence, although this requires a motion filed to the court.

A conviction that has been expunged will not be shown on any criminal background checks and it is no longer necessary to disclose when you apply for housing, student loans, or jobs. Except for applications for employment or permits to carry a firearm, the conviction record is sealed.

“Expungement of marihuana-related convictions is a step towards righting one of the many injustices suffered by members of disadvantaged communities in our city,” said Sarah Ryan of the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo, Inc. “Expungement gives people the ability to apply for employment, schooling, and housing without having a marihuana conviction negatively affect the better future they are hoping to achieve. Everyone benefits from having the opportunity to realize dreams. The Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo thanks all the participants who are working towards this worthy project.”

Erie County residents with a marijuana-related conviction may attend any of the sessions. Those seeking expungement or reduction must sign and complete an application form and a financial eligibility form to allow legal experts to obtain a copy of the applicant’s Court records and criminal history.

Attorneys will review the records to determine each person’s eligibility for conviction expungement or reduction. Attorneys will file a motion to the Court for the expungement of or reduction in criminal charges if they are eligible. At a date set for this fall, the motion will be presented to a judge. The prosecutors will agree to dismissal of or reduction of conviction. In the event that a person’s conviction is ineligible for reduction or expungement, they will be notified.

On Thursday, August 25th, 2022 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, a first expungement clinic will take place. The second clinic will take place on Saturday September 24th, 2022 from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. The events are held at Elim Christian Fellowship, 70 Chalmers Avenue, Buffalo.