Our dedicated California cannabis law firm knows firsthand how federal misdemeanor marijuana offenses can change a person’s life going forward. Unlike most of the 50 states, which have various legal mechanisms in place to expunge low-level cannabis possession offenses, the federal system currently has no such procedure. That means a federal misdemeanor for marijuana possession will follow an individual for life.
However, a bi-partisan effort, led by Congressmen Troy A. Carter, Sr. (D-LA) and Rodney Davis (R-IL), is seeking to change that by introducing a criminal justice reform bill that would expunge certain federal marijuana misdemeanors. This long overdue piece of legislation is entitled the Marijuana Misdemeanor Expungement Act.
What Will the Marijuana Misdemeanor Expungement Act Accomplish if Passed?
The Marijuana Misdemeanor Expungement Act was formulated to assist Americans clear low-level marijuana offenses charged at the federal level through “an expedited, orderly process that clears the deck of non-felony marijuana offenses.”
In support of the bill, Weldon Angelos, president of The Weldon Project (an organization dedicated to funding social change and financial aid for those serving prison time for cannabis related offenses), testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Mr. Angelos argued on behalf of decriminalizing cannabis at the federal level, defending Americans suffering from the burden of past cannabis related offenses.
Both Congressmen Carter (D-LA) and Davis (R-IL) agree.
Congressman Carter recently conveyed his ambitions: “I’m proud to introduce The Marijuana Misdemeanor Expungement Act, bipartisan legislation that will restore justice to millions of Americans who have suffered inordinate collateral consequences associated with marijuana-related misdemeanors.”
“These misdemeanors — even without a conviction — can result in restrictions to peoples’ ability to access educational aid, housing assistance, occupational licensing, and even foster parenting. Delivering justice for our citizens who have been impacted by marijuana-related misdemeanors is a key component of comprehensive cannabis reform.”
Marijuana Misdemeanor Expungement Act Adding to the List of Cannabis-Related Bills Before the Senate
Throughout the years, there has been much anticipated progress for federal reform. At this point, we have learned to not get too excited at about any one potential step forward since we have been let down so many times before. The momentum does seem to be shifting though as federal lawmakers are gaining a better understanding of the industry.
In December 2021, Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14), co-chair of the House Cannabis Caucus, and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) introduced the Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act. This bipartisan bill aims to help states with expunging cannabis offenses by reducing the financial and administrative burden of such efforts through federal grants.
In addition, several other broad bills to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level are making their way through the legislative process. In April 2021, The House passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which was first introduced by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.). The MORE Act is designed to remove marijuana (cannabis) from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act and eliminates criminal penalties for an individual who manufactures, distributes, or possesses marijuana. Unfortunately, the bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate.
In July 2022, The House also passed the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2021 which would allow legal cannabis businesses to utilize traditional banking services.
According to the American Bar Association, even though it now has passed the House seven times, the legislation is not expected to be included in the Senate version of the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
We will be sure to update this article, as each of these Acts makes its way through the Senate.
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Contact one of our California cannabis law firm specialists today by phone at (310) 912-2960 or online to ensure your operations and complete business interests are protected inside and outside the courtroom.