Cannabis prohibition has created numerous problems for those who have chosen to consume it. One of the biggest problems is the fact that whether you’re a buyer or a seller, possession is possession and it’s currently against the law in many parts of the U.S. If you ask the federal government, it’s illegal across the country.
Being arrested for marijuana can have life-long consequences, especially if you are convicted at a federal level. A conviction can prevent you from accessing federal funding and grants for school and housing, and many jobs require a clean background check. These are things many of us may take for granted, but they are nearly impossible for someone with a 15-year-old federal marijuana conviction.
“If our goal is to reduce recidivism and improve the lives of millions of Americans, we cannot allow hardworking citizens who served their time to be defined by their worst mistakes in life,” Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester said in a press release. “With an inerasable criminal record, they are locked out of the American Dream. It becomes harder to get a good-paying job, pursue education or training, and own a home. This creates a system that leaves many hopeless and trapped in a cycle of poverty, and it is time we broke that cycle.”
Reform in our justice system – especially regarding criminal records for non-violent offenses like marijuana possession – has finally started to make progress slowly around the U.S. Now, a federal bill known as the Clean Slate Act hopes to provide a solution to this problem. The bipartisan bill was introduced by Representatives Lisa Blunt Rochester and Guy Reschenthaler and it would automatically seal the records of those convicted of federal marijuana possession one year after they complete their sentence.
“At the time of sentencing of a covered individual for a conviction pursuant to section 404 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 16 U.S.C. 844) or of any Federal nonviolent offense involving marijuana,” the bill text states, “the court shall enter an order that each record and portion thereof that relates to the offense shall be sealed automatically on the date that is one year after the covered individual fulfills each requirement of the sentence, except that such record shall not be sealed if the individual has been convicted of a subsequent criminal offense.”
The Clean Slate Act would not only automatically seal marijuana-related non-violent convictions after a year – but it will also make it possible for individuals with other drug-related and non-violent convictions eligible to have their records sealed as well. There is likely soon going to be a companion bill introduced in the Senate by Senator Bob Casey, who is currently seeking a GOP co-sponsor for the legislation. The fact that lawmakers are making these efforts might not signal a change in federal policy on cannabis – but at least it won’t leave people paying for that joint for the rest of their life.