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  • Pierce Fenwick, Staff Writer

New Jersey Expunges Above Its Weight Class

From the Twitter feed of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy:

New Jersey, which has not even opened its first dispensary yet, is making some serious inroads against the FAILED WAR ON DRUGS. Governor Murphy reported last month that his little East Coast state has already expunged 362,000 cannabis convictions, and he’s not done.

You might recall that last week LA County made a lot of noise about expunging 58,000 cases… and 140,000 in the State… Well California has 35 Million people, and New Jersey only has 8 Million, so pound-for-pound, New Jersey is really punching above its weight class.

Expungement is not universal, and each legal state has its own rules. I went to the "How to Get Your Weed Record Expunged" page on the website “Complex” for more information.

Expungement is automatic in 7 states under certain circumstances… but “If your charge isn’t automatically expunged, it’s worth investing in other options.”

  • You might be able to apply or petition to have your record expunged, sealed, set aside, or reduced. A sealed record still exists, but cannot be accessed by the public.

  • When your record is set aside, the court will dismiss the charge and make a note in your public records. Then you can seal that set-aside record so it’ll be like the charge never existed.

  • If all else fails, you could apply to have a conviction changed from a felony to a misdemeanor. Reduced charges come with lesser penalties and stigma.

Of course, the rules are complex, some require a petition, some require a petition and a fee, the fee can be as high as $1,000. Here are some examples of how “Not-Free” it can be to have your record expunged:

  • "Expungeable New York weed convictions that happened after Aug. 28, 2019, are automatic and free, but cannot begin until the person pays all fines associated with the charge (which doesn’t exactly make it free).

"In Oregon, the expungement process

  • Takes about three months.

  • Applicants have to pay the state a $281 filing fee

  • They must pay the police $80 to do a background check

  • On top of that, they have to pay $25 to get their fingerprints taken and

  • $10 for each form that needs to be notarized.

  • Altogether, the cost climbs to about $400 without a lawyer...

  • ... not including the fines and fees associated with the charge."

Jeannette Ward Horton, who along with husband Jesce Horton founded NuLeaf Project in Portland, Oregon, to make sure that Black and brown people can succeed in the legal cannabis market "... says those fines and fees keep many now-innocent people from even attempting to clear their name."

"The Oregon Equity Act plans to take cannabis money from the state and place it back into marginalized communities. The bill allows conviction fees and fines to be forgiven, and removes child endangerment charges that are automatically tacked onto cannabis-possession charges for women with children—even if the child was nowhere around. (Yes, that happens.) Jeannette hopes that other states will follow suit.”


You can check with a lawyer, a legal aid society, or the "Restoration of Rights Project" on the Collateral Consequences Resources Center website.

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