This New Bill Would Give a Fresh Start to Millions of Cannabis Convicts in America

If passed, a new bipartisan bill filed in the House of Representative this week would automatically seal some federal marijuana convictions.

On Tuesday, Representatives Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) introduced a new piece of legislation titled the Clean Slate Act. Under the new bill, individuals with federal cannabis convictions will automatically have their records sealed one year after they have completed their sentence.

While Blunt Rochester and Reschenthaler's bill doesn't go as far as repealing federal cannabis prohibition, it would be a big step forward for criminal justice reform. Right now, millions of Americans are burdened with criminal records for low-level cannabis crimes like simple possession. Those records often severely limit a person's potential and can even condemn them to a life of poverty.

"With an inerasable criminal record, they are locked out of the American Dream," Blunt Rochester said in a press release about the new bill. "It becomes harder to get a good-paying job, pursue education or training, and own a home. This creates a system that leaves many hopeless and trapped in a cycle of poverty, and it is time we broke that cycle."

The filing of the Clean Slate Act follows moves made by a number of state and local level governments to expunge, pardon or seal past cannabis convictions. Blunt Rochester—a member of the Congressional Black Caucus—was also the primary sponsor of a similar piece of legislation filed last year.

In addition to sealing past federal cannabis convictions, the Clean Slate Act would also allow people to petition to have other convictions for non-violent offenses sealed. However, criminal records will not be sealed if the individual is a repeat offender.

On top of receiving bipartisan support, the bill has been backed by both the leftist Center for American Progress as well as the right-leaning American Conservative Union Foundation.

The Clean Slate Act does not currently have companion legislation in the US Senate, but Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) is expected to file it once he finds a Republican co-sponsor.

h/t Marijuana Moment

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California may have been the first in the country to pioneer cannabis law reform, but the Golden State is still struggling to eliminate the black market and sell affordable, legal pot. In 1996, California voters passed Prop 215 to legalize medical marijuana. In the years immediately following its passage, medical cannabis was a small and largely unregulated affair.

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