Now that cannabis is legal in Nevada and the laws on possession have changed significantly as of the beginning of this year, it only makes sense that those who were convicted under previous law should be able to have their records cleared. Assemblyman William McCurdy has introduced a bill that aims to do that – at least to an extent. Although some support it, others claim it is unnecessary and some say the bill doesn’t quite go far enough.
“This is to help low-level drug offenders have this removed or vacated,” said freshman Assemblyman William McCurdy, D-Las Vegas, to the Assembly Committee on Corrections, Parole and Probation on Tuesday morning.
Assembly Bill 259 would make anyone convicted of marijuana possession that is no longer considered a crime (current laws make possession of an ounce or less of flower and an eighth or less of concentrates perfectly lawful) eligible to have their records “vacated” – which means the offense would no longer show as a conviction on their criminal record. However, court proceedings, arrests and other information pertaining to the case that is currently public record would remain public unless the individual went on to have their record sealed.
This last part is where some people are saying it doesn’t go far enough – they would rather see the bill rewritten so that it makes them eligible to have their record sealed, rather than simply vacated, this way there is nothing more to do beyond that. If a record is only vacated, some may not realize that they have to file to have it sealed separately and could still end up running into issues down the road. For now, the bill’s wording remains the same, although it does have potential to change before being voted on.
“We had some of the strictest marijuana laws until these last five years,” Adler said. “And it was up to discretion, if you got busted somewhere like Elko, they’d throw you out with the full penalty of the law.”
Those who are in opposition to the bill are saying that it is unnecessary because anyone arrested in recent years was likely given a citation, rather than arrest, a court appearance and/or jail. But this law is to help all residents of Nevada who have possession related convictions, as Assemblyman Will Adler pointed out when reminding people that up until 2009 marijuana possession of any amount was a felony offense and prior to 1997 it had a minimum mandatory sentence of up to 15 years in jail.
Not only will this bill help hundreds (if not thousands) of people who have been arrested for possession over the many decades of prohibition, but it would also help those who were unlucky enough to get caught recently in a place where officers rarely used the discretion to ticket a possession offense in place of arrest. It does not, however, offer any promise to those who were convicted of possessing more than the current legal amounts, or those who were arrested for selling cannabis – but the majority of people hurt by prohibition could absolutely benefit from this bill passing.