Missouri Marijuana Legalization Measures Take Differing Approaches to Expungement

MJ moment

Legal experts worry the cannabis expungement proposals currently being considered might cause more harm than good. By Rebecca Rivas, Missouri Independent The push to legalize recreational marijuana use in Missouri is coming from multiple directions, with a handful of proposed initiative petitions and at least one bill, and potentially more, backed by Republican lawmakers. Each hopes to place the issue on the 2022 ballot for voter approval. And each proposal also includes a provision that, while often overlooked in the marijuana debate, is considered a transformative piece of the legalization puzzle—the expungement of nonviolent marijuana offenses from criminal records. The proposals differ on how they handle expungement. Some propose an “automatic” system that would have the courts identify the old offenses and seal them on people’s records. Others would require people to submit a petition and pay a fee. How to go about expungement remains up for debate. But the necessity of its inclusion appears a settled matter. “Every conversation should start with criminal expungement and how the war on drugs has been part of the extension of systemic racism,” said Brennan England, state director of Minorities for Medical Marijuana, an advocacy group for minority businesses. However, legal experts who work directly with people in law clinics worry that the expungement proposals that are currently being considered in both the initiative petitions and legislation might cause more harm than good. Especially since each seeks to amend the Missouri Constitution. “My concern is we put something in the Constitution of the State of Missouri that has this level of minutiae, some of which may not be possible,” said Ellen Suni, dean of the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Law and director the law school’s expungement clinic. The Legal Missouri ballot initiative, which has the financial backing from many of the state’s…

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