Purge the records of individuals who were convicted of misdemeanor crimes involving possession of marijuana, and release those who are currently in jail for these petty offenses. Tens of thousands of people have difficulty obtaining employment because of public record of infractions that are widely considered trivial, or would lawful in the majority of US states today.
Why does this matter?
As reported by The New York Times, the share of American men with criminal records — particularly black men — grew rapidly in recent decades as the government pursued aggressive law enforcement strategies, especially against drug crimes (source). In the aftermath of the recession, those men are having particular trouble finding work
Men with criminal records account for about 34% of all nonworking men ages 25 to 54, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll (source)
A 2020 ACLU report found that even in the era of marijuana reform, black people are more than 3½ times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than whites. This, despite ample data showing both races use the drug at similar rates (source)
Surveys also show roughly nine in 10 United States employers check databases of criminal records when hiring for at least some positions. While some focus solely on felony convictions; many others also consider misdemeanors or arrests
The efforts by states to legalize or decriminalize marijuana are part of a national trend toward making it easier for people to seal or expunge a range of convictions. Americans with a criminal record — whether it’s marked with felonies, misdemeanors or both — can find it harder to get a job and find housing
California, Colorado, Maryland, New Hampshire and Oregon also have made it easier for people convicted of some crimes of marijuana possession, cultivation or manufacture to get their records sealed or expunged, which generally means removing convictions from public databases. Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a criminal justice bill that would, among other changes, allow people to expunge any conviction that’s no longer a crime, such as marijuana possession (source)
What can we do to tackle it?
Likely the most impact on this topic will come at a local and state level. There are more than 2,000 prosecutor and sheriff elections this fall, offices that have a big impact on criminal justice across the country (source)
Our step-by-step playbook will help uncover bills being considered, and how to reach out
Consider signing a petition for the Marijuana Justice Act (315,000 signatures so far)
Engage on social channels and in The Forum; add ideas, comments, and facts, to help us uncover real solutions to this issue