More than 235,000 people could have their criminal records automatically cleared of low-level marijuana crimes under a bill set to be introduced in the Michigan Senate.
Under Senate Bill 416, people convicted for possession or use of marijuana would have those crimes purged from their records without having to file a special application to the court that sentenced them.
Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, is behind the proposed law.
“Automatic expungement for all of our lowest-level cannabis offenders allows people to move on with their lives and making it automatic is essential because many people can’t afford an attorney, or the legal fees associated with an application,” Irwin said in a statement. “Cannabis is now legal in Michigan and petty offenses in the past should be no barrier to getting back to work or school.”
Voters said yes to legalization in November 2018. As of December 2018, it is legal for adults age 21 and over to possess marijuana and to consume it in Michigan, though consumption is limited to non-public areas.
But few people are able to expunge their records of crimes that are now legal activities in the state, due to the money and time it takes to see the process through.
“This is the next step in ending the unsuccessful prohibition of marijuana that incarcerated and punished Michigan residents unfairly for decades,” Irwin said in a statement. “After last year’s mandate from voters, I am hopeful that a majority of legislators will vote to give Michigan residents back the opportunities that were unjustly taken from them.”
Irwin’s proposed law also directs courts to grant expungements in cases where a person was convicted for possessing an amount of marijuana that is now legally allowed. It also expands the types of crimes that people could seek expungement for, including convictions for growing or possessing with the intent to distribute.
Forgiveness for marijuana offenders has been slow to take root in Michigan in the wake of legalization. On the day after the 2018 election, then Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer said she was planning to use her executive power to grant clemency to jailed marijuana offenders early in her term — which has yet to materialize.