POT POSSESSION EXPUNGEMENT BILL FINALLY BECOMES LAW IN MARYLAND

Maryland’s Senate Bill 949 went into effect on October 1. The long-debated bill will make it easier for people who have been convicted of marijuana possession to clear their records.

Prior to the bill’s passage, anyone convicted of cannabis possession was required to wait 10 years before applying for expungement, despite the fact that Maryland decriminalized possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana in 2014.

Now, the waiting period to apply for expungement has been reduced to four years following conviction.

Senator Brian Feldman, who sponsored the piece of legislation, said the bill aims to help people who were convicted for using or possessing marijuana before it was decriminalized.

“We shouldn’t have folks, particularly younger folks, prejudiced,” Feldman said. “This is real-world stuff, and it just seems incongruent to have on the books prospectively that this is no longer a crime and yet have thousands of young Marylanders hampered with this criminal record.”

In addition to outrageously long jail sentences, the hundreds of thousands of people who are arrested each year in the United States for marijuana possession—well over a half million in 2016—are saddled with the arrest on their record for years.

The collateral consequences of having a simple pot possession charge on your record can cripple your prospects for jobs, loans, student financial aid for college, acceptance for housing rentals, denial of professional licenses, as well as numerous other social and financial benefits.

And, marijuana possession arrests disproportionately affect people of color, hitting black communities the hardest.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), marijuana arrests account for over half of all drug arrests in the United States. Of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88 percent were for simply having marijuana.

Recent FBI crime data revealed a consistent trend: significant racial bias. Despite roughly equal usage rates, blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana.

Now, in Maryland, people can start the process of cleaning their marijuana arrest records, then go on with their lives.