It is no secret that the potential legalization of adult recreational use cannabis has not gone exactly as the current administration had planned. Legalization was to be coupled with expungement provisions that would effectively remove from the record all low-level marijuana/hashish/paraphernalia arrests and convictions. The intended result would be social justice for those previously labeled “convicted offenders” based upon their record thus potentially being “denied employment opportunities, housing, education, professional licenses, and other benefits generally available to other members of the public.”1
Senate bill S3205 (6/11/19) attempted to address this issue and the governor’s concerns in an ambitious and the governor’s concerns in an ambitious and broad-sweeping makeover of the current expungement process. Going forward, and as specifically related to low level marijuana-related offenses, the bill proposed the “impounding” of expunged records related to marijuana offenses, not simply “extraction and isolation” as currently set forth in the expungement statutes. For the purposes of expungeability, S3205 provided that certain indictable marijuana-related offenses would now be considered disorderly persons offenses thereby making them much easier to expunge. The categories of offenses included in this proposal consisted primarily of: (1) marijuana and hashish-related possession with intent to distribute; (2) distribution convictions limited to one ounce to less than five pounds of marijuana or less than five grams of hashish and (3) simple possession convictions of possession of more than 50 grams of marijuana or five grams of hashish. Those are what are commonly referred to as low-level indictable marijuana-related convictions.
As a corollary, S3205 proposed that the most minor marijuana-related offenses, i.e. disorderly persons offenses consisting of simple possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana or less than five grams of hashish along with possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia would not be considered convictions at all for expungement purposes. Since currently and historically there are a finite number of disorderly persons convictions that may be expunged at any one time, these proposed modifications were considered significant. S3205 also proposed an increase in the number of such convictions that could be included in an expungement application.
Most importantly, with regard to existing convictions of low-level marijuana-related offenses as of the bll’s effective date, S3205 proposed an “expedited” expungement procedure limited to any number of then-existing lowest level marijuana-related convictions. The proposed bill also included an 18-month waiting period from the expiration of the most current conviction for any number of lowest level marijuana-related offenses occurring on or after the effective date of the act along with a new three-year expungement time requirement for any number of low-level indictable marijuana-related offenses.