By Mike DeBonis,
District residents who have been convicted of nonviolent marijuana offenses could apply to have those criminal records sealed under a bill granted initial approval by the D.C. Council on Tuesday.
The change is being considered amid a period of great upheaval for the city’s marijuana laws, which have gone from strict prohibition to the cusp of legalization within a span of months. In March, lawmakers voted to limit the penalties for minor cases of possession to a civil fine no more serious than a parking ticket. Next month, city voters will consider whether to legalize the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use.
Council member David Grosso (I-At Large), who introduced the record-sealing bill, said his legislation is a companion to the other measures. He said it is a matter of fairness to give prior offenders some ability to scrub their records now that city leaders have pursued a liberalized marijuana policy.
“People who have had these issues in the past, it never leaves them,” Grosso said. “They have to check the box [indicating a prior conviction]. They can’t get a job. They can’t get public housing. They can’t get financial aid” for college.
Under the bill, residents could file a motion to seal in D.C. Superior Court, which would be granted unless prosecutors could show that the offense in question remains a crime. If granted, prosecutors and courts would have to remove public records relating to that individual’s arrest, charge, trial or conviction.
The measure, which passed 12 to 0 and is subject to a second vote set for later this month, is among the broadest efforts to allow marijuana records to be sealed in the country, according to Grosso and data compiled by the Drug Policy …read more