What Happens to Old Marijuana Convictions if Weed Becomes Legal?
In the next November election, Michigan voters will decide whether marijuana will be legal for recreational personal use. It is a real possibility that marijuana use and possession will soon be legal.
This leads to the question – what about all those people who have convictions on their record for possession or use of marijuana?
It may not seem fair that many people will be stuck with marijuana convictions on their record once the basis for that conviction is no longer a crime.
Over the last five years, 117,123 people have been charged with misdemeanor marijuana crimes in Michigan. Of those, 49, 928 were convicted.
What accounts for the difference is likely people taking advantage of the 7411 statute, which allows a person earn a dismissal for a first-time drug offense. Nevertheless, that leaves over 50,000 with marijuana convictions still on their record from the last five years alone.
Some of those convictions may have later been dismissed through other legal mechanisms, however.
As of 2016, there were 3,670 Michigan residents on probation, or in jail or prison on felony marijuana charges.
Dealing with Old Convictions
Going off the statistics for the last five years, there are likely thousands and thousands of Michigan residents with marijuana convictions on their criminal records. The convictions can make life difficult, in terms of employment or other areas.
The normal way to deal with a conviction is through an expungement. An expungement is where an old criminal charge is made non-public by a judge. The mechanism for this is to file what’s called a Motion to Set Aside a Conviction in court. For example, a lawyer would file this motion in court to get before a judge
The eligibility rules for an expungement depend on how many prior convictions a person has had.
Proposed New Law
At least one Michigan lawmaker has proposed a new law that would expunge old marijuana convictions.
The law mainly addresses expungements for misdemeanor marijuana convictions. As for felony marijuana convictions, the bill would allow for some expungements, but would leave that within the discretion of the Court. The specifics of the law are not worked out. However, the goal of the law is to provide relief to people with marijuana convictions on their record.
The new law would probably not be voted on and passed before the November election, and there is no guarantee it would pass at all. But first things first, marijuana would need to be legalize before the proposed law would be relevant at all.
Sam Bernstein is a Criminal Defense Lawyer.
ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.