Assembly Passes Bill to Seal Records for Marijuana Misdemeanor Convictions

Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes announced the passage of legislation that would permit the sealing of certain marijuana convictions in an effort to curb the long lasting effects of criminal records. (A.10092, Peoples-Stokes).

Currently, an individual charged with possession of 25 grams of marijuana or less is charged with a violation, similar to a traffic offense with no criminal record. However, reports have been made that many times officers request that a suspect empty his or her pockets or purse, observe marijuana within the contents, and then charge him or her with the misdemeanor offense for possessing marijuana in a public place and open to public view. Distinctively, this misdemeanor offense does create a criminal record. Under the proposal, this marijuana misdemeanor charge would be included among the offenses for which sealing of records is required upon conviction.

“A lifelong criminal record is a harsh burden to bear for an offense that is often treated as a violation,” said Assemblymember Peoples-Stokes. “Furthermore, this burden is one that disproportionately affects African American and Latino communities. Although studies show that white people use marijuana at similar rates, African Americans account for nearly half of all marijuana possession arrests and Latinos account for more than one third of such arrests. This places an unfair burden on minority communities.”

The consequences of carrying a permanent criminal record are one of the most enduring of such an arrest. Records of arrests and convictions are now easily accessible and can in turn create significant impediments for individuals looking for a job, housing, credit, maintaining their professional licenses, and applying for student loans.