People convicted of federal, nonviolent marijuana offenses or drug possession would have their records automatically sealed under a U.S. House bill introduced Tuesday.
Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) filed the bill—dubbed the Clean Slate Act—which stipulates that criminal records should be sealed exactly one year after a person serves out their sentence, so long as they don’t commit crimes again.
Twenty other representatives have already cosponsored the legislation, including Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).
From the bill:
“At the time of sentencing of a covered individual for a conviction pursuant to section 404 of the Controlled Substances Act or of any Federal nonviolent offense involving marijuana, the court shall enter an order that each record and portion thereof that relates to the offense shall be sealed automatically on the date that is one year after the covered individual fulfills each requirement of the sentence, except that such record shall not be sealed if the individual has been convicted of a subsequent criminal offense.”
The Clean Slate Act is the latest in a string of bills that aim to reform federal drug laws, with a particular emphasis on cannabis.
Though not quite as wide-ranging as bills such as the Marijuana Justice Act introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), along with a companion House bill from Lee, the primary objective is similar: mitigate the long-term harms of the federal drug war by giving nonviolent offenders a second chance.
As more states have moved to legalize, marijuana-related convictions have fallen demonstrably at the federal level, according to a United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) report released in June. That said, drug crimes still account for the bulk of the federal caseload.
In 2017, about 1,300 federal drug convictions were for “the simple possession of a drug” alone.
If this bill passes, eligible individuals who have previously served out their sentence would be able to submit a petition to a U.S. district court in order to get their records cleaned.
The bill also requires district courts to keep track of things like how many petitions are granted or rejected—information that would be included in a public report.
While a growing majority of Americans believe that marijuana should be legal, an even larger percentage of the population (73 percent) believes that criminal records should be automatically sealed for individuals convicted of marijuana-related offenses, according to a 2018 report from the Center for American Progress.
“The Clean Slate Act is important legislation that would ease the burden felt by those unjustly suffering the collateral consequences resulting from cannabis prohibition,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal told Marijuana Moment.
“Individuals saddled with a marijuana possession conviction are disproportionately either people of color or at the lowest rungs of the economic ladder, and it is essential that they are not held back from being able to obtain employment, housing, access to higher education, and all of the other necessities of being an active participant in their community. Having been arrested for mere marijuana possession does not make one a bad person, but rather a victim of a cruel public policy.”