Michigan May Be The Next State To Clear Cannabis Convictions

Potentially hundreds of thousands of Michiganders could soon be in line to have previous marijuana offenses expunged, thanks to a sweeping legislative package that is on the verge of becoming law.

A total of six bills are heading to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk after clearing the final round of approval in the legislature, and all would significantly change the criminal records of many in the state. And the effort to wipe clean the records of some who were previously busted for pot comes in the wake of Michigan voters approving a measure to legalize recreational marijuana use in 2018.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the legislative package that was approved by lawmakers includes a proposal to “create a process to streamline expungement of marijuana offenses if the activity that led to the conviction would have been legal under the recreational marijuana law.”

House Bill 4982 allows “people convicted of one or more misdemeanor marijuana offense to apply for expungement, streamlining the process,” while also providing a “rebuttable presumption that the conviction was based on activity that would not have been a crime if committed after the use of recreational marijuana by adults became legal in December 2018,” according to the Free Press.

“In challenging the application, a prosecutor would need to prove by a preponderance of evidence that the conduct would constitute a criminal violation after recreational marijuana was legalized. Courts would move to set aside convictions that are not contested after 60 days,” the newspaper explained.

Another measure, House Bill 5120, establishes “that people aggrieved by a court’s ruling on an application for marijuana expungement can request a rehearing or appeal,” according to the Free Press.

Marijuana In Michigan

Michigan voters approved Proposal 1, which made marijuana legal for adults in the state, in the 2018 midterms. It’s safe to say that residents have embraced the new law. The Detroit News reported in May that recreational pot sales had soared in the state after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the paper, sales in the nine weeks following March 9 accounted for about 60 percent of the overall cannabis sales since the program began in December of last year.

Michigan isn’t the only state in the Great Lakes region to end prohibition, and expunge records from previous marijuana offenses. Recreational marijuana was officially made legal on New Year’s Day in Illinois after the state’s governor, J.B. Pritzker, signed legislation last summer to usher in the reform. Along with permitting adults to use pot, the new law also included pardons for thousands of individuals who had previously been slapped with low-level marijuana convictions.

On New Year’s Eve, Pritzker issued 11,000 pardons, hailing it as “an end to “the 50-year-long war on cannabis,” and a restoration of “rights to tens of thousands of Illinoisans.”

Advocates celebrated the legislation in Michigan, too.

“This is a milestone in state criminal record-sealing policy that will help hundreds of thousands of people in Michigan, and help drive the national conversation on reform forward,” Safe & Just Michigan Executive Director John Cooper said, as quoted by the Detroit Free Press.

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