Following the lead of other major cities and counties in states that have legalized adult-use marijuana such as San Francisco and San Diego in California and Seattle and Pierce County in Washington, local officials in Colorado are taking action to undo the injustices of marijuana prohibition.
Six years after voters in Colorado legalized adult-use marijuana, Boulder County, which encompasses the city of Boulder, and the City of Denver, have announced plans to expunge past convictions of low-level marijuana crimes from criminal records. Regardless of adult-use marijuana being legal to possess and consume in 10 states, a lingering marijuana-related conviction can prevent otherwise honest and hardworking adults from job opportunities, housing and financial resources.
Boulder County Assistant District Attorney Ken Kupfner shared his thoughts in a recent interview with Colorado Public Radio:
“We want to help people whose convictions are having the greatest impact first,” Kupfner said. “It could span everything from jobs to potential housing to educational opportunities. Anytime someone has a conviction, even for marijuana, it still shows up as a conviction.”
Following the announcement from the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock unveiled a new citywide effort to expunge low-level marijuana convictions that occurred in Denver before voters legalized adult-use marijuana in 2012. According to the Mayor’s office, more than 10,000 convictions for low-level marijuana crimes will be eligible for expungement.
Colorado state law currently only allows for the expungement of juvenile records, arrests based on mistaken identity and underage DUI offenses. However, in 2017 Representatives Edie Hooton and Jovan Melton worked together to pass HB 1266, which allows those who were convicted of criminal offenses for the use, cultivation, or possession of marijuana to petition for the sealing of criminal records. Certainly a step in the right direction.
Lawmakers in California, Delaware, Rhode Island, Oregon and others have taken similar steps to allow for the expungement of marijuana-related convictions or at the very least, seal criminal records. With a record number of state legislatures expected to consider numerous bills to tax and regulate adult-use marijuana in 2019, advocates can rest assured that expungement will continue to be a part of the conversation.