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Vermont May Clear Past Marijuana Convictions

Lawyers say there are nearly 3,000 misdemeanor cannabis charges eligible for expungement across Vermont.

Adam Drury

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Vermont May Clear Past Marijuana Convictions
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In just over a week, Vermont’s adult-use cannabis law will go into effect. On July 1, those 21 and older will be able to possess up to an ounce of dried flower and grow up to six plants per residence. However, the state’s next step will not be to establish a regulated retail market. Instead, Vermont will focus on expunging the criminal records of those with past marijuana violations.

Vermont Takes Proactive Approach To Pot Convictions

Many states that have legalized adult-use marijuana are looking for ways to redress the past. If cannabis is no longer a crime, there’s no reason for minor drug offenders to live with their records or serve out harsh mandatory minimum sentences.

Marijuana convictions place serious burdens on people of all ages. Those with criminal records dating back to the ’60s and ’70s, for example, still can’t possess a firearm or cross the Vermont border into Canada. Young people with marijuana convictions can’t secure student loans for college or get decent jobs. These lifelong consequences follow minor marijuana offenders everywhere they go.

To address this issue, Vermont’s lawmakers made the possibility of expungement a centerpiece of their legalization bill. The law creates the opportunity for most people convicted of minor marijuana offenses to clear their past convictions. That opportunity will open up new ones in housing, work, education, and travel for thousands of people in Vermont.

Some Vermont Counties Have Already Held “Expungement Days”

In the lead up to the implementation of Vermont’s legal marijuana law, some counties have held “expungement days”. These events offer workshops on and free assistance with the criminal record expungement process.

During a May 11 Expungement Day in Windsor County, Vermont Law School professor and Director of the Center for Justice Reform Robert Sand, along with VLS students and volunteers, educated community members about the process.

By the end of the session, attendees were able to fully complete their petition for expungement. Two State’s Attorneys at the event, David Cahill (Windsor) and Sarah George (Chittenden), also offered to file petitions with the proper courts.

Throughout the event, spirits were high on the VLS campus. The Associated Press caught up with several expungement day attendees who expressed their happiness at having their past marijuana convictions wiped from the record.

“This is a beautiful time for me, getting it expunged in the great state of Vermont. I’m just here to you know rectify the past, right now today,” said Steven Martin, who received his charge back in 1998.

Glynn Wilkinson, a man with a 50-year-old pot charge said, “You can forget about it, but it never really goes away. Now it can actually go away.”

More Expungement Days To Come In Counties Across Vermont

Attorneys in other Vermont counties are also gearing up to hold their own expungement day events. According to David Cahill, there are almost 3,000 misdemeanor marijuana convictions eligible for expungement. Felony cannabis charges or convictions for selling cannabis are not eligible to be expunged.

Anyone interested in attending one of the sessions and clearing their criminal record should bring the a government-issued photo ID, and any records of the offense; the original docket number is especially important.

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