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Michigan lawmakers push to expunge marijuana-related convictions

LANSING, Mich. – Efforts in Lansing to clear the criminal records of more than 250,000 people with marijuana convictions is one step closer to being a reality. The bill cleared the State House.

“We’re talking about a time now where people are about to make profit off something that people have been locked up for and harassed for, for years. We’re not doing anything about it immediately, that’s where the real issues lie,” said State Representative District 11 Jewell Jones.

Jones said that’s enough reason for House Bills 4980-85 and 5120.

“I think it’s really beautiful to see this Representative from Detroit and then myself from Inkster coming from communities of color who have traditionally been impacted, dramatically around this issue, I think that was just the whole idea,” Jones said.

The bill presented by both Jones and State Rep Isaac Robinson recently passed the legislation that will change expungement laws to help hundreds of thousands of people to clear their criminal record in a timely manner.

Robinson said that’s the most important part, “within 90 days, after a person fills out a simple application, in most instances, that conviction would be set aside off their record, removing the job barrier, housing barrier stigma."

Michigan voters said yes to both medical and recreational Marijuana. Jones and Robinson said there’s nothing currently being done for approximately 235,000 of those who have misdemeanors or low level convictions. This bill will change that.

“This House Bill as incorporated in the package will expunge all low-level marijuana convictions in a very streamline automatic way,” Robinson said.

"Four year felony for marijuana would be fewer than 20 plants or involving 5 kilograms, so a person who has that conviction in this package, they would be able to petition to have that expunged,” Robinson said.

They both admit, this may bill may not have all of the answers, but it’s a start.

“I think even just having this conversation now allows some of those doors to be open for people,” Jones said.

The Senate will vote on the bill the first week in December and if it passes there it will go to the governor.

Here is an outline of the bill:

Remove barriers to employment. Giving reformed offenders a fresh start will help them access new employment opportunities, especially in professions with stringent licensure requirements.

Strengthen our economy. Thousands of people will become more employable at a critical time when job providers are in dire need of skilled labor to grow their businesses.

Improve public safety. A steady, well-paying job is one of the best ways to ensure people lead productive, crime-free lives.

According to Robinson and Jones, these bills will make Michigan a national leader in expungement policy by:

  • Massively expanding eligibility for petition expungement by increasing limits to 2 felonies and 4 misdemeanors (from the current 1 felony and/or 2 misdemeanors) and providing a path for more felony and unlimited misdemeanor expungements if none of the crimes are assaultive
  • Allowing for expungement of traffic offenses (excludes DUI-offenses and driving offenses causing serious injury or death) via petition system, which is currently prohibited
  • Allowing for expungement of marijuana use and possession, if the facts of the case show that the conduct would be legal under MRTMA
  • Allowing for automatic expungement of up to 2 felonies and 4 misdemeanors, if none of the crimes were assaultive, after a certain number of years (depending on the number and severity of convictions)
  • Allowing for felonies or misdemeanors committed during the same incident (within 24 hours and on the same charging document) to be counted as a single offense for the purposes of expungement (with some restrictions)
  • Shortening eligibility timeline for expungement of misdemeanor offenses from five years to three years We believe this legislation will be a vital component of criminal justice reform in the State of Michigan, helping citizens to get back on their feet and reintegrated into the community by increasing their employment opportunities.

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