More than 7,500 individuals in Missouri have had their prior marijuana-related convictions expunged with recreational cannabis now legal in the state.
The expungement is the latest byproduct of the constitutional amendment that was approved by Missouri voters last fall, which legalized pot for adults and cleared the way for Missourians to have their records cleared.
According to the Riverfront Times, passage of Amendment 3 “kick-started a process to expunge criminal records related to nonviolent marijuana offenses that otherwise would have been legal had Amendment 3 always been a part of Missouri’s constitution.”
“The majority of expunged convictions so far are misdemeanors. As of [last] Tuesday, courts have granted 6,121 expungements for misdemeanors related to nonviolent cannabis offenses that did not involve selling to minors or driving under the influence of cannabis. More than 1,200 felony convictions have also been expunged,” the publication reported.
Dan Viets, secretary of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws who helped author the state’s medical and recreational cannabis laws, told the Riverfront Times that the process is “going faster” than he expected.
That has become a recurring theme for the Show Me State’s rollout of the new marijuana law.
Legal recreational pot sales launched on February 6, which was earlier than anticipated.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported at the time that the nascent cannabis industry expected “that the licenses required to sell non-medical cannabis would not be issued by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services until [days later].”
The launch of legal weed sales came only a month after the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said that it was finalizing rules for the new adult-use cannabis program.
“Once rules are effective, DHSS will begin approving or denying requests from licensed medical marijuana facilities to convert to comprehensive facilities, which can serve both medical and adult-use consumers. After conversion, sales to adult-use consumers may begin as soon as comprehensive dispensary facilities are ready to commence operating under their new authority. Also per Amendment 3 to Article XIV, DHSS will begin accepting applications for consumer personal cultivation by Feb. 6. Once approved, this will allow authorized persons, who are at least 21 years of age, to grow plants for personal, non-commercial use within an enclosed locked facility at their residence,” the department said in a January bulletin.
But as in other states that have lifted the prohibition on cannabis use, Missouri’s new law aims to redress previous wrongs inflicted by anti-pot laws.
According to the Riverfront Times, the newly passed amendment “established deadlines for when sentencing courts must expunge certain crimes.”
“One deadline is fast approaching — sentencing courts must complete adjudication for misdemeanors of people currently in prison or jail by March 8. But most deadlines to expunge other crimes are at least 3 1/2 months away,” the Times reported. “Circuit courts have until June 8 to order the expungement of criminal history records for all misdemeanor marijuana offenses of people no longer under the supervision of the Department of Corrections. And they have until December 8 to expunge criminal histories of people who already completed their sentences for felony marijuana offenses that are no longer crimes.”
“Questions about how Missouri’s court system could sustain the expected influx of expungement requests circulated before Amendment 3’s passage in November. In October, the Missouri Supreme Court requested almost $7 million to cover the cost of erasing eligible marijuana convictions. The Missouri Office of State Courts Administration also submitted a supplemental budget request asking for $2.5 million to cover clerks’ overtime and hire additional information technology staffers,” the publication continued.