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New Yorkers Attempt to Clear Names for Plant That is Now Legal

Some residents claim that their past convictions for cannabis use have ruined their lives. While programs are in place to clear certain types of records, lawyers worry the state isn’t doing enough.

The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) passed last year, and under the MRTA, certain people can ask the court to vacate their convictions if they are experiencing “severe or ongoing consequences related to either their conviction or the sentence,” according to the law.

The state has so far suppressed or expunged nearly 400,000 convictions related to cannabis. In March of last year, the New York State Cannabis Control Board approved rules to give the first 100 retail licenses to those convicted in cannabis-related cases.

However, the state’s county district attorneys are refusing to accept certain cases. was updated June 22nd, NY Cannabis InsiderThe profiled New York cases involved individuals who tried to get rid of their criminal records but were unsuccessful. Sometimes, it’s the smallest details that can really make a difference.

Attorneys agree Everybody with a cannabis-related conviction faces “severe or ongoing consequences.”

“I cannot imagine an instance where a prior marijuana conviction does not cause severe or ongoing consequences,” said Wei Hu, an attorney and founder of MRTA Law who is representing two clients as their applications to vacate are being opposed by the Nassau and Dutchess County DA offices.

Nassau County DA’s office wrote that due to the amounts of cannabis involved, those particular crimes would still be a crime today. The Dutchess County DA’s office provided a similar argument.

But lawyers like Hu say the state isn’t doing enough to erase cannabis convictions from the past, often over minor discrepancies. And the consequences can ruin a person’s career.

“It impacts the family, it impacts personal relationships, it impacts your professional ones, it disenfranchises people from voting, it keeps people out of public housing, it disables them from sustainable employment, and it’s one of the most pernicious laws that still exists when you now have legal and regulated sales,” said Hu.

“It’s really distasteful.”

In other words, it’s hypocritical for New Yorkers on one hand to get rich while others are still facing the consequences of the failed War on Drugs.

New York officials are given less time than one year to complete automatic expungements. However, only certain crimes are eligible. “If you were convicted of violating Sections 221.05, 221.10, 221.15, 221.20, 221.35, or 221.40 of the Penal Law, you are entitled to automatic expungement and sealing,” the law states. “These convictions currently will not appear in a criminal history search requested through the Courts or the Division of Criminal Justice Services. Automatic expungement of these charges will be completed on or before March 31, 2023.”

Others States Lead the Improvements in the Expungement Process

Colorado, Illinois and other states are improving their expungement procedures.

In Colorado, Gov. On May 31, Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 99. Automatic expungements do not form part of this program. It further expands and streamlines the state’s automatic record sealing process. Additionally, he used his executive authority and pardoned several thousand Coloradans convicted in low-level cannabis crimes.

In Illinois, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed House Bill 4392, amending state law so that the courts are no longer able to deny petitioners’ requests to have their criminal records expunged solely because of a cannabis-related drug test failure.

New York has the potential for improving its expungement procedures.