It’s Time To Expunge Minor Marijuana Conviction Records In Legal States

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

the-thin-line-of-medical-marijuanaSimple marijuana possession is legal in several states and is likely to be in others in the future. Yet, the taint of a marijuana conviction on record can be a limiting factor for the convicted seeking employment and other benefits–Especially for engaging in an act that is essentially legal in green states. While certainly the courts are under no present obligation to expunge these records, morally it can be argued that state legislatures should put this social handicap to a rest.


Simply put the run-of-the-mill stoner is not a menace to society. The drug kingpins are. A case certainly can be made that the latter’s criminal record should remain permanent as could likely be articulated with most felony (trafficking) drug charges that organized crime and associated felonies contribute to disruptions. There is a fundamental difference between these two.

Presently there is a movement in many states to remove the right of employers, in general, to have on job applications a check box for the applicant to use if they have a criminal conviction. Many employers will read this box and simply discard the application from further consideration. There is an articulable need for specific cases such as banks needing information concerning conviction records for theft or embezzlement but it is doubtful that simple marijuana possession records in green states should bar an applicant from further consideration when it is immaterial to the requirements of the position applied for.

But in addition to this for otherwise law-abiding citizens the stigma of having a criminal record tends to have a chilling effect to some degree on self esteem and confidence to move forward.  For many it is an unnecessary burden.

It is time to move forward and expunge simple marijuana conviction records.

By Darren Smith

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

76 thoughts on “It’s Time To Expunge Minor Marijuana Conviction Records In Legal States”

  1. To author, …..Except the run of the mill stoner is a menace to society. Obviously you dont know a “stoner”……you may know upright ppl who use….but not run of the mill stoners.

  2. Steve, You have missed my many rants about the money behind cannabis prohibition. They are, not necessarily in this order, alcohol lobby, big Pharma, government employee unions, prison lobby. A cabal of private and public sector. One of the biggest impediments in the Senate is a Dem, Diane Feinstein. One of her major contributors in Napa Valley. A Dem Senator from SF against legal cannabis all because she’s a vino whore!! With more Chins than the Shanghai phone book.

    1. Nick,

      Can’t touch that. And I’m not a Feinstein fan.

      Here’s to the good folks at Sierra Nevada and Stone breweries.

      Cheers and best regards.

  3. Racism was the impetus in making cannabis a controlled substance. Those “Negroes” and “Wetbacks” were the ones who used it back in the day.

    1. Nick, I don’t disagree with your comment about race along with reefer madness, etc., being the strongest arguments for outlawing pot use, but it’s counterintuitive to believe that when Prohibition ended in 1933, the alcohol lobby wanted pot growers to have a cut of alcohol profits. The beer industry certainly is involved. (

      What’s more, there’s evidence that marijuana was banned to destroy hemp farming. Hemp was the alternative to the new synthetic fibers and plastics industries shortly before the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. (

      It was in no small part competitive blacklisting by other industries which raised enough public fear that pot got a bad name, so much so that it was outlawed.

  4. Marijuana should never had been illegal in the first place. However it was. Some chose to break that law. If you did, then you pay the penalty. Just because the law is changed doesn’t mean you get a retroactive vindication.

    If the speed limit is changed should all people who had tickets that exceeded the old limit but not the new limit have their driving records changed?

    Laws get changed all the time. If we retroactively clear up a guilty person’s record then it only stands to reason that it works both ways. When something that is legal become illegal would it be reasonable to retroactively add charges to people who did it while it was legal?

    1. BernardBlack, very persuasive argument, but there are plenty of laws which are enacted and which apply retroactively based on a lack of or less constructive public policy in the law being superseded. For instance, when the federal highway system speed limit was reduced to 55MPH for the primary purpose of saving fuel expenditures during the Carter administration, someone speeding during that era shouldn’t have the right to avoid the fine now.

      On the other hand, with regard to marijuana (and apart from the question whether this should apply to other drugs if they are legalized), the basis for the law making pot a controlled substance is completely unfounded unless one thinks it equitable that Budweiser have no competition.

  5. The so-called “War on Drugs” has been a complete failure and has also destroyed our Bill of Rights as well. In the late 1960’s the U.S. Supreme Court completely gutted the 4th Amendment – without a constitutional amendment, today the 4th Amendment has no resemblence to it’s original letter & spirit. Other constitutional rights would be destroyed also with this phony war – without constitutional amendment.

    Today blacklistees (not those convicted or even confronted) in the fraudulent War on Drugs today have been uploaded to terrorism blacklists operated by each state’s Fusion Center.

    Legalizing marijuana may restore our Bill of Rights and restore are broken criminal justice system be forcing government officials to start following their oath of office to uphold the U.S. Constitution.

    1. Exactly RB.

      Thomas Jefferson — Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add “within the limits of the law,” because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

  6. steveg:

    Although I’m still on the fence about legalizing recreational drugs, besides marijuana, we are in agreement that addiction should not be a crime.

    It’s a self inflicted illness, just like all the myriad other illnesses caused by smoking, excessive drinking, or other self destructive behaviors.

    Any illegal activity related to addictions, however, such as theft and forging prescriptions, however, should remain illegal. Perhaps most drugs could remain illegal to sell, but we could spare users from getting arrested, because since they’re addicted, it’s not like it’s a deterrent for most of them.

    The deciding factor for me would be how such a change in the law would affect addiction rates and the crime rate in general. As long as addiction rates and related crimes did not rise, then I would support de-criminalizing use, but not the sale, of street drugs. But if those rates increased, then I would want the ability to revert to the prior criminal code. Perhaps there could be a transition period.

    And I have another conundrum. I still believe that street drug use is dangerous for kids to be around, and that kids would need to be removed from parents like meth addicts until they reached recovery. They just can’t make responsible decision while in the throes of addiction, and can’t be good parents until they recover. Could we still have that layer of protection if it was legalized? I always worry about unintended consequences.

    1. Karen S writes, “And I have another conundrum. I still believe that street drug use is dangerous for kids to be around, and that kids would need to be removed from parents like meth addicts until they reached recovery. They just can’t make responsible decision while in the throes of addiction, and can’t be good parents until they recover. Could we still have that layer of protection if it was legalized? I always worry about unintended consequences.”

      Certainly I agree with you with regard to preventing minors’ use of drugs, Here, a parent under the influence while caring for his or her child is susceptible to a charge of neglect and if a single parent a juvenile dependency action and in family court or in a guardianship action in probate court a finding of child abuse, depending on the circumstances. I don’t think that standard would change were there legalization. No doubt children need constructive advice from parents or mentors, not criminalization, to avoid drug use. Also, I believe drug abuse is a symptom of our economic system’s failure to address out-of-control competition where winning, loyalty, and conformity are everything and the concept of an individual’s social contract means very little.

  7. I am so torn about legalizing all recreational drugs, although I do favor legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes.

    My grandmother told my father that Prohibition gave organized crime power. It led to increased violence and crime. You are responsible for the choices you make, and what you consume.

    On the other hand, so many street drugs are dangerous and highly addictive, and once addicted, they absolutely ruin your life. Just like the FDA prohibits the sale of drugs that have no benefit and do only harm, by definition it prohibits the sale of these drugs. Alcohol and cigarettes escape the FDA’s notice because they have a long cultural history of use. Otherwise, tobacco products would have to fall under the definition of a banned substance.

    We have such a high homeless population here in CA. Many are mentally ill and/or addicted to hard drugs. They’re just wrecks. They can’t take care of themselves, and won’t go to shelters because they won’t give up the drugs. They stagger around with vacant, dead eyes. Plus we’ve all heard of the new drugs like Bath Salts that can cause people to become crazy cannibals.

    Would legalizing recreational drugs produce a net increase or decrease in addicts? Would removing the thrill of the forbidden make less people try them? How to get less young people to even want to try drugs?

    Part of me agrees that it’s our own responsibility what we consume, as long as we have full information on it, but I also have grave concerns about releasing toxic drugs to the public legally.

    1. Karen, you really have good posts on this subject, and I generally agree with you. Also, I might add that you write so well (your intent is always clear without a second reading) that I always I enjoy reading them.

      You’ve stated both sides of the problem, but for me it isn’t a conundrum. What we have now is an abomination in terms of criminality of a health issue, federal intervention here and abroad (the intention of which I believe is primarily unrelated to drug trafficking), the same homicidal criminal elements as during alcohol prohibition (my grandfather was a cab driver in Oakland during that era and had stock in the trunk of his cab he once told me), inter alia, all of which could be generally ended by legalization. Sure, the emotionally and ignorant might stray into dead ends but without the stigmatization of criminality, common sense suggests the prognosis would be much better were it all legalized.

      I haven’t checked the statistics in Portugal since legalization there (nor do I know just what has and hasn’t been legalized), but that might be the place to look because of its orientation toward the traditional Christian family values as is generally the case here.

      Besides, it’d give me something to do on the weekends. 😉

  8. Wonderer, when alcohol and cigarettes are legal, the argument that marijuana may be bad for people and therefore possession of it should be prohibited is spurious at best. If people are free to damage their bodies, and ultimately kill themselves, with drinking and smoking, they should be free to ingest marijuana (and anything else) whenever they choose to do so. As long as no one else is hurt by it, what some adult wants to do to themselves is nobody else’s business. And if what they do does injure someone, then they should have to face consequences for it.

  9. I agree that, if marijuana possession is now legal in a state, then convictions for marijuana possession should be expunged. It does not seem fair for people to have a career limiting record for what is now a legal activity.

    Does anyone know what they did after Prohibition was lifted? What happened to all those serving time for bootlegging, speak easies, brewing their own beer, and the like? (My own grandmother brewed beer during Prohibition, but was never caught. Although there was a tense moment when the Catholic priest came to call right when she experienced brew failure in a batch, and her bottles started blowing up.)

  10. Here is something on which we should hopefully all agree. The DEA, a often rogue political agency, has cannabis listed as a Schedule 1 Drug, along w/ heroin! Cocaine and Meth are Schedule 2 for chrissake. Let’s take the first step Federally by having cannabis moved down to a Schedule 3 drug, like steroids and codeine. I personally don’t think it should even be a controlled substance, but let’s at least get close to sanity at least.

    1. Nick, whatever schedule cigarettes and beer are in or should be in, pot should be in an even less regulated schedule.

  11. @Tygar Gilbert, I agree with you to the point that such “bad laws” are laws that were enacted in bad faith. But I strongly disagree that the mj laws were enacted in bad faith. We’ve been treated to a great deal of publicity on the positive and non-harmful aspects of mj, but there are still quite valid scientific and medical concerns about the impacts of marijuana.

  12. The Bomb Iran song was sung on Saturday Night Live back in 1980 or so. Whenever it was that Iran took our hostages and Carter did squat. Now today some people will say that Obama does squat. But my feeling is that if one squats one at least gets something out of the system.

    With this ISIS apCray we have a group of allies who cannot squat. They cannot put together ground troops. They cannot go back to their former colonies and take over again. France is what I would call a weeny nation state. It is not much better than a Pirate Territory. The Hollande guy is a joke. Seventy five years ago they had Vichy France and participated in the Holocaust. Since then they have no spine. They could not keep Vietnam under the belt or Algeria. They let all these terrorists into their country and now they don’t even have borders. The end of Europe as we once knew it is near. No, not near, but here.

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