There are three main steps to get a weed record expunged (if it’s not automatically done): meet the qualifications, file the paperwork, and submit any necessary fees.
All 16 weed-friendly states have different rules, but the process and outcome is pretty much the same. At this moment, states like Massachusetts don't offer automatic expungement, but have tried to streamline requests with a short one-page petition form. Massachusetts doesn’t charge any fees to apply for an expunged or sealed record. You simply visit the state’s official court website, search for the form, follow the application’s instructions, which includes sending a copy of the petition to the district attorney’s office, and then wait for the response.
Meanwhile, in New York, if you don’t qualify for a free automatic expungement, you might qualify to have your record sealed. Similar to Massachusetts, applicants can find the “sealing” form online, but searching for some of these applications is like digging for a needle in a digital haystack. Completing some of these forms is just as hard, too.
Jesce, who’s currently the Oregon Cannabis Association (OCA) social justice chair, breaks down the overly complicated steps that his state requires. “The first step is determining if you have a charge that is expungeable,” Jesce says. “A lot of times there are little stipulations that prevent it from being expunged.” If the charge is expungeable, the person can move onto the application phase, which might require reaching out to the court to get the original arrest record. The applicant will need to submit fingerprints, a notarized signature, and payments for any lingering fines or fees.
Oregon allows people to set aside and seal their record, which is equivalent to an expungement. In every state, the process can be completed without a lawyer, but it’s not always designed to be done without a legal professional. At least that’s what Jeannette says. Despite the step-by-step instructions, she’s had to hire expungement lawyers to carefully assist the people who attend her expungement clinics.
Recreational states aren’t the only ones with opportunities to clear weed convictions. Even states like Pennsylvania, where only medical weed is legal, have a path for expungement. The Pennsylvania Board of Pardons has a free expedited program for non-violent marijuana convictions.