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Washington D.C. Approves Automatic Expungement of Simple Marijuana Possession

Washington D.C. Approves Automatic Expungement of Simple Marijuana Possession

Simple marijuana possession offenses will now be automatically expunged in Washington, D.C., following the approval of a criminal justice reform bill that contains an amendment that supports the notion. 

The Second Chance Amendment Act 

The bill was approved by the D.C. Council on Tuesday and will now head to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s desk for her signature or veto. If signed into law, the legislation would automatically seal or destroy all marijuana possession records for offenses that took place before the district enacted its limited cannabis legalization law in 2014—a move that would help people who were arrested for possessing marijuana prior to decriminalization avoid having those charges show up on background checks when they apply for jobs or housing. 

The new amendment would automatically expunge these records regardless of whether they’re eligible to do so under current law—meaning people who were arrested for marijuana possession before 2014 could get those charges sealed or destroyed. The law took effect in January 2015 and legalized marijuana possession of 2 ounces or less. The Second Chance Amendment passed on a 13-0 vote by the D.C. Council, considers that some records lack the specification of the quantity possessed by the offender. That is why the amendment includes all simple offenses, not just 2 ounces or less, making it easier to implement the new law. 

The Second Chance Amendment Act 

The District’s Progress And Limitations 

Washington, D.C., has made incredible progress toward legalizing marijuana. They’ve decriminalized possession of up to two ounces of marijuana for persons over the age of 21, and they’ve also legalized medical marijuana and set up a regulatory system for dispensaries. This week, the District Council also unanimously approved a new bill to make significant changes to the medical marijuana program in the district. The vote came on the day the criminal justice reform was passed. The changes include eliminating license caps, providing tax relief to operators, and creating new regulated business categories, such as on-site consumption facilities, among other changes.

And though it’s great to have a city government that supports efforts to improve the lives of D.C. residents, it’s also important to remember that they still don’t have complete autonomy over their affairs.

It is essential to note the continued progress that D.C. keeps making for its local constituents despite no assistance from federal government agencies. Despite the decriminalization of simple marijuana possession,  federal law continues to prohibit the possession or use of any amount of marijuana. As a result, the federal government can still enforce federal law and arrest anyone found with any amount for violating federal law. The district continues to face limitations due to the rider included in this year’s federal budget, which blocks D.C. from taxing and regulating marijuana sales. 

The District’s Progress And Limitations 

The District of Columbia has made some huge steps toward criminal justice reform, and they aren’t slowing down. The latest bill approved by the D.C. Council will automatically expunge simple marijuana possession offenses, making it easier for individuals to get their lives back on track. This is just another example of how D.C. continues to progress regarding criminal justice reform despite having no assistance from Congress or any of its agencies. 

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