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Group Launches Pro Bono Criminal Expungement Program for Pot Convictions

Maureen Meehan

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marijuana arrest, pot prisoner, drug charges, jail

PPG Foundation, a newly launched national non-profit group based in New York, recently announced the launch of its pro bono criminal record expungement program—specifically targeted at those with non-violent marijuana convictions.

Created to provide much needed assistance for those seeking re-entry into the workforce, the foundation’s Clean Slate Program will work directly with people who have faced limited opportunity, or dismissal from jobs, once their criminal history was revealed.

The impact of having a criminal record for something as petty as possessing a small amount of weed is excessive and can follow people around for the rest of their lives.

For example, many academic institutions require that students check a box on their college application if they’ve ever been arrested. Certain drug-related convictions can send one’s financial aid up in smoke, prevent one from getting housing, loans, denial of a professional licenses, etc.—all part of the collateral consequences of having simple pot possession on your record.

A fact to remember: Marijuana arrests account for over half of all drug arrests in the United States. Of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88 percent were simply for having pot, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Expungement has the potential to change millions of lives in this country .

“As commerce in cannabis transitions from underground markets to above-ground businesses, it is important for us a society to wipe clean the stigma and vestiges borne by non-violent offenders who have been robbed of opportunities by the decades-long war on cannabis,” said Perry Salzhauer, an attorney with Portland-based Green Light Law Group, which is partnering with the PPG Foundation in this endeavor.

The program is committed to alleviating the disproportionate effects the War on Drugs has had on underserved and historically disadvantaged communities. Pot use is roughly equal among blacks and whites, yet blacks are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for possession, according to the ACLU.

Once a person is pulled over or questioned by the police, who usually run a record check, minor pot possessions tend to create a level of hostility—or worse, provide the police with a justification for shooting unarmed civilians.

Despite the aggressive enforcement of pot possession laws by police departments nationwide, the War on Marijuana has failed to reduce pot use and availability.

Now that state legislatures, thanks to advocates and voters, are finally rejecting draconian laws and legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana in many states, it is the right moment—and the right thing—to officially exonerate people from these convictions and expunge their records.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

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