Updated: May 13
From my recent notes: NBC reports "The House voted Friday on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, or MORE Act, which decriminalizes cannabis and clears the way to erase nonviolent federal marijuana convictions." However, 'the Senate is unlikely to approve the bill," as usual. Nice effort I guess. I have several felonies for cannabis, which would be unaffected. Federal marijuana convictions are extremely rare as they fall to the state level where retroactive reform is needed.
It may get there, but not like this. Cannabis hasn't built a rebellious economy in dozens of states by going through conventional channels. Otherwise, we would still be waiting on our bipolar system, for Federal oversight. I was just writing about how cannabis prohibition is the last remaining issue from the civil rights movements of the 1960's and '70s. It's the only issue that hasn't been won-over, or changed, on anything but the state level. And while states have rolled back cannabis laws, they basically refuse to expunge prior Felonies. With the real damage done after serving time or being convicted, nothing has changed.
In Colorado, the state leading legalization efforts, it's still a fight and a battle to expunge past cannabis convictions. It is not approved or put into law and you do not have the right to expunge or "seal" your criminal record, even for cannabis. A long, drawn-out procedure of court appearances require an attorney, costing thousands of dollars. Like other states legalizing cannabis, the procedure to seal or expunge prior convictions is an intentionally complicated process, leaving victims confused and overwhelmed.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, almost half a million people were arrested over the past decade for cannabis in California, while "California courts have received just 1,506 applications for reclassifying past marijuana-related crimes, since state residents gained the option to do so last year." Just last year did the process become available and this is a state with medicinal cannabis dating back to the mid-nineties! Those numbers reveal what everyone convicted already knows. The same corrupted courts that convicted a defendant pick and choose the cases to seal or to expunge. Why bother? It's no wonder why only 1500 out of a half million cases filed for relief. California residents have just about as good a shot as I would trying to seal my felony THC charges from Rick Scott directly, in Florida's horrific system.
Longer criminal histories are just one of many reasons for courts to reject the petitions to seal or expunge a defendants case. There are many legal logistics you would otherwise never hear about, unless reading what I am about to say. The following is one of a hundred ways prosecutors prevent restorative justice, long before the opportunity arises.
When I was 21, having no criminal record, I proceeded to leave a house party with my car, in a black-out, however I was parked in. Determined to not let a little truck stop me, I backed into it quite a few times before quitting. When I was arrested, I had about six charges against me, but after the District Attorney got his greasy-gross hands on the case, the number jumped to sixteen. Sixteen charges with nine felonies! A bit harsh, but truly nothing out of the ordinary for how this system operates, as I would soon learn. In the end everything was dismissed, except one misdemeanor and one deferred Felony for Criminal Mischief. Complete two years of probation and the felony goes away, but the misdemeanor doesn't. Why the meaningless misdemeanor that I can't even remember? Because it prevents my case from being sealed or expunged from my record, even with successfully completing probation. This is just one of the many tricks played by prosecutors who have the scales of justice cemented in their favor.
Side Note: Without accepting the misdemeanor and deferred felony deal, I would face all sixteen charges at trial. That's a risk very few are willing to take. Meanwhile it's basically an admission from the DA that 14 of the charges are bullshit, yet refusing their plea offer meant facing all nine felonies and six misdemeanors at trial.
This Bill has no chance in the Senate, but the energy and momentum of several states approval joins a global rise in cannabis advocacy. In her article on Cannabis law reform Sophie Quinn says, "It is part of a global movement to end prohibition. The U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs voted this week to remove marijuana and marijuana resin from the category of the world's most dangerous drugs, paving the way for additional research opportunities," opportunities our Federal laws prevent. Just as the 70's civil-rights movements were generated around the world, cannabis advocacy is having a domino effect. But until Federal law changes and state law follows with retroactive reform, hundreds of thousands of victims continue to suffer as convicted felons, despite the admitted injustice.
“[The bill] creates a horrible precedent by retrofitting criminal sanctions for past conduct every time a new law is changed or passed,” Carolyn Tyler, a spokeswoman for Republican Attorney General John Suthers, told The Denver Post at the time. It's morons like this that hold us back. A fitting statement for someone who doesn't want to be told she is wrong or admit to mistakes, even when the law says to. A long and dark history of injustice prevents anyone involved with the Prison Industrial Complex from looking back and admitting to necessary change. Cruel, foul, ignorant-injustice will be the lasting sentiment of this system, especially with thinkers like Suthers leading the way.
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