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Connecticut Governor To Expunge Thousands of Cannabis Convictions

Tens of thousands of Connecticut residents are in line to have their records cleared after the state’s Democratic governor announced Tuesday that he is expunging low-level cannabis possession convictions.

Gov. Ned Lamont’s office said in a press release that records “in approximately 44,000 cases will be fully or partially erased” next month by way of “an automated erasure method.”

“On January 1, thousands of people in Connecticut will have low-level cannabis convictions automatically erased due to the cannabis legalization bill we enacted last year,” Lamont said in a statement. “Especially as Connecticut employers seek to fill hundreds of thousands of job openings, an old conviction for low-level cannabis possession should not hold someone back from pursuing their career, housing, professional, and educational aspirations.”

The expungements are part of the state’s year-old cannabis law. Lamont signed in June 2021 a bill legalizing adult recreational cannabis use and establishing the regulatory framework to allow for legalization. 

According to the state’s statement, more than 15,000 applicants applied for dispensary licences before May deadline. 

The legal sale of adult-use products is expected to start next year. 

As in other states and cities that have lifted the prohibition on pot, Connecticut’s new law contained a significant social justice component, with provisions to award the first retail licenses to individuals from areas most adversely affected by long standing drug policies, and to clear the records of those with certain marijuana-related convictions. 

“That’s why I introduced a bill and worked hard with our partners in the legislature and other stakeholders to create a comprehensive framework for a securely regulated market that prioritizes public health, public safety, social justice, and equity. It will help eliminate the dangerous unregulated market and support a new, growing sector of our economy which will create jobs,” Lamont said after signing the bill last year. “By allowing adults to possess cannabis, regulating its sale and content, training police officers in the latest techniques of detecting and preventing impaired driving, and expunging the criminal records of people with certain cannabis crimes, we’re not only effectively modernizing our laws and addressing inequities, we’re keeping Connecticut economically competitive with our neighboring states.” 

On Tuesday, Lamont’s office spelled out how the expungements will work in practice.

Residents “who have had their records erased may tell employers, landlords, and schools that the conviction never occurred,” the release said, while also providing details on eligibility for expungement.

“Convictions for violations…for possession of under four ounces of a non-narcotic, non-hallucinogenic substance imposed between January 1, 2000, and September 30, 2015, will be automatically erased on January 1, 2023,” the governor’s office said, adding that people “included under this provision of the law need not do anything to make these convictions eligible for erasure.”

The governor’s office said that the “Clean Slate automated erasure system is expected to be fully implemented during the second half of 2023,” implementation of which “involves significant information technology upgrades to allow criminal justice agencies to send and receive data to determine who can have their offenses erased and to update record systems.”

Other violations, including the following may also be erased, though individuals will have to file a petition to a court: “Convictions for violations of … possession of less than or equal to four ounces of a cannabis-type substance imposed before January 1, 2000, and between October 1, 2015, and June 30, 2021; Convictions for violations of … possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia for cannabis imposed before July 1, 2021; [and] Convictions for violations … imposed before July 1, 2021, for manufacturing, selling, possessing with intent to sell, or giving or administering to another person a cannabis-type substance and the amount involved was under four ounces or six plants grown inside a person’s home for personal use.”