Oregon: Legal Marijuana Sales Begin Oct. 1; Past Convictions Can Be Cleared
By Steve Elliott
Oregon wasn't the first state, or the largest, to legalize marijuana. But when it begins retail cannabis sales next month, the state will blaze a new trail, because it will consider applications to clear the record of past marijuana convictions.
Paperwork which would forever seal old pot offenses is now available in Oregon, thanks to a new law, and those who complete the process can legally say to any employer, landlord or anyone else who asks that they've never been convicted or cited for any drug crime at all, reports Kirk Johnson at The New York Times.
Fifteen years ago, when Erika Walton, then in her 20s, handed a bong to someone who turned out to be a police officer, she was cited for marijuana possession. She paid the fine, but the violation continued to haunt her as part of her record.
"It's taken away a lot of my life," Walton said as she inked out her fingerprints, which Oregon requires for sealing the file. Walton said the minor citation cost her when she had to disclose it on job applications and for volunteer positions at her children's school.
"That's why it means so much to me today," she said. While Walton used a state law that allows anyone with a lowest-level felony, misdemeanor or traffic violation -- not restricted to drug offenses -- to wipe the slate clean after 10 years or longer without another conviction, more serious felony cannabis convictions of the past, including cultivation, will be eligible for record sealing as well.
"Oregon is one of the first states to really grapple with the issue of what do you do with a record of something that used to be a crime and no longer is," said Jenny M. Roberts, professor of law at American University in Washington, D.C., specializing in criminal law and sentencing.
"In criminal law reform on marijuana, Oregon has gone further than anyone else," said Leland R. Berger, a Portland lawyer specializing in cannabis cases.