But there's a small, growing movement among cities in legal marijuana states to either reduce sentences or expunge marijuana-related charges from before the laws changed.
“We’ve shifted public opinion so broadly on marijuana ... but we’ve got to also do something about those who have been arrested, incarcerated or otherwise penalized for possession, or use or sale,” says Chris Alexander, the New York policy coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance.
This push comes as voters in November could legalize marijuana in two more states -- Michigan and North Dakota -- and New Jersey lawmakers are moving closer to legalization after Vermont earlier this year became the first state to legalize it through the legislature. North Dakota's measure would create an automatic expungement system, and bills have been introduced in New Jersey that would allow people to apply for expungement.
About half of legal marijuana states have processes for people to apply for reduced sentences or expunged records. But the majority of these systems rely on those with convictions to initiate the process, which can be time-consuming and costly, says Kate Bell, general counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project. Many may also be unaware of the option.