Washington, D.C.

Marijuana Offenders Could Have Records Sealed After D.C. Council Vote

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Reefer Madness

Residents of the nation's capital could have their nonviolent marijuana offenses sealed under a proposal currently being considered by the D.C. Council.

The proposal, which passed 12–0 in the first of two votes—the second one is scheduled for later this month—would allow residents to have their records sealed by filling a motion with the D.C. Superior Court. The Court would be obliged to seal the records, unless prosecutors could show that the crime still remains an offense.

The proposal is designed to complement recent changes to the legal status of marijuana in the District, after the punishment for possession of small amounts was downgraded to a $25 on-the-spot fine­—equivalent to a parking ticket—earlier this year.

From The Washington Post:

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.

If enacted into law, this measure could greatly improve the lives of people who have been convicted of non-violent marijuana related offenses. As David Grosso points out:

"People who have had these issues in the past, it never leaves them… 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.

Opponents of the war on drugs have gained considerable momentum since the passage of ballot measures legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington. With similar ballot measures set to be voted on this November in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington D.C., 2014 could turn out to be another record year in the fight against drug prohibition.