Minnesota Expunges Nearly 58K Records Just Nine Months After Rec Weed Legalization

While it may have only just ushered in legislation legalizing recreational cannabis, Minnesota is already ahead of the curve when it comes to cannabis crime expungements under its Adult-Use Cannabis Act.
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Minnesota is one of the most recent states to legalize cannabis use for adults over 21, and just over nine months after the state made the legislation official, state leaders have already finished expunging low-level cannabis convictions for thousands of residents.

According to a news release from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, criminal history records qualifying for expungement under the state’s Adult-Use Cannabis Act are no longer visible to the public on the Minnesota Criminal History System (CHS).

Nearly three months ahead of schedule, the state’s Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) expunged 57,780 records, while the state’s Judicial Branch determined that 213 records should not be expunged.

Minnesota Promptly Addresses Expungements Following Rec Reform

“We are pleased to be able to deliver on this legislative priority,” BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said. “Minnesotans will see changes to their records immediately and as additional expungements are made in the months and years ahead.”

Minnesota’s Adult-Use Cannabis Act went into effect on Aug. 1, 2023, fully decriminalizing cannabis and allowing for the possession, use and home cultivation of cannabis for adults over 21.  

In addition to being legally allowed to use, possess or transport cannabis paraphernalia, the Adult-Use Cannabis Act allows of-age Minnesotans can possess up to two pounds of cannabis in a private residence, possess or transport up to eight grams of cannabis concentrates and edible cannabis products with a combined 800 mg of THC or less. 

They may also cultivate up to eight cannabis plants, with no more than four mature, at a single residence so long as they are of age and plants are in an enclosed, locked space obscured from public view.

Since the legislation was enacted, the BCA has worked to identify all state records that qualify for automatic expungement. During that process, the BCA introduced coding changes to the system to allow qualifying records to be sealed from public view.

A Solid Start for an Ongoing Process

Now, the state must notify local law enforcement agencies so they can begin the process of expunging their own individual records next, while felony-level convictions are still under review. The law indicates that most felony-level convictions are eligible for review by the Cannabis Expungements Board. The BCA said that it expects this process to take years to complete, as the cases must be reviewed one at a time.

“The Cannabis Expungement Board is tasked with the thoughtful and careful review of cannabis-related felonies and we are quickly moving forward to build a team to accomplish the work,” Cannabis Expungements Board Executive Director James Rowader said. “It is very encouraging to see that misdemeanor cannabis criminal records are moving toward expungement now. These actions together will have a lasting and significant equity impact on communities throughout the state of Minnesota.”

All records in the CHS have posted notices notifying those viewing records about the potential for future changes under the new cannabis legislation. The BCA will also review records in the CHS next year to identify and expunge additional records that were still in the court process when the 2024 expungements occurred.

The legislation also requires the bureau to submit a report to legislative committees with summary data and the total number of cases cleared. 

Additionally, a separate law passed in 2023 — the Clean Slate Act — will seal even more cases in the future. Under the act, records that currently require a court order to be expunged will qualify for automatic expungement. It goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2025, though the BCA anticipates that it will be able to implement automatic expungements related to the law prior to the deadline.

In the midst of these progressive steps forward, legislators and canna-business professionals are eyeing next year for Minnesota’s recreational market launch. Initially, the estimated launch date was set for the first quarter of 2024, though it’s possible that it may take more time to draft regulations and issue licenses.

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