Over 2.3 Million Cannabis Convictions Pardoned or Expunged in U.S. Since 2018

Over 2.3 Million Cannabis Convictions Pardoned or Expunged in U.S. Since 2018

In a significant milestone for cannabis reform, state courts in the United States have granted pardons or expungements for over 2.3 million cannabis-related convictions since 2018, according to an updated analysis by NORML. The report highlights a substantial surge, with around 500,000 individuals receiving relief in the past year alone.

The analysis encompasses publicly available data on cannabis pardons and expungements, tracking the progress of sweeping efforts to alleviate the burden of cannabis convictions. Pardons, which forgive past criminal convictions, are typically granted by elected officials such as governors or presidents. On the other hand, expungement, which forgives and seals past convictions from the public record, is often enacted through legislative measures or voter initiatives.

Expungement policies have played a pivotal role in this wave of relief, with the majority of the efforts focused on sealing cannabis convictions. Notable examples include Illinois state officials sealing approximately 800,000 cannabis convictions, along with over 300,000 each in New Jersey and Virginia. California and New York have also seen about 200,000 convictions sealed through expungement policies. This trend is reflective of a broader movement across various states to rectify the impact of cannabis prohibition.

While elected officials have issued cannabis pardons to around 100,000 individuals, the emphasis on expungement policies underscores the commitment to not only forgive but also erase the lasting stigma associated with past cannabis convictions.

President Joe Biden has been actively involved in this initiative, renewing his call for state governors to pardon state-level cannabis possession charges. This call came after the blanket pardoning of all federal convictions for simple cannabis possession in October 2022. While the president expanded this action recently, he has yet to commute the sentences of individuals currently serving time for cannabis-related convictions.

NORML’s Deputy Director, Paul Armentano, emphasized the need for swift action, stating, “Our sense of justice and our principles of fairness demand that public officials and the courts move swiftly to right the past wrongs of cannabis prohibition and criminalization.”

The momentum for cannabis reform aligns with recent polling data indicating that a record 70% of Americans support federal cannabis legalization. As the nation continues to grapple with the complexities of cannabis policy, these pardons and expungements signify a crucial step toward rectifying the historical injustices associated with cannabis convictions.

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