As Oregon prepares to begin retail marijuana sales next month it is nonetheless blazing what the New York Times calls “a profoundly new trail” by allowing anyone with a lowest-level felony, misdemeanor or nontraffic violation to wipe the slate clean if 10 years or longer has gone by without another conviction. Starting next year, more serious felony marijuana convictions of the past, like manufacturing, will be eligible for record sealing as well. “Oregon is one of the first states to really grapple with the issue of what do you do with a record of something that used to be a crime and no longer is,” said law Prof. Jenny Roberts of American University in Washington, D.C.
Many states have begun to rethink the implications of harsh drug or mandatory sentencing laws that led to high incarceration rates and costs, revising rules so people right their lives can escape the stigma of a criminal record. Oregon was the first state, in 1973, to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. One new law this year says courts must use the standards of current law — under which possessing, growing and selling marijuana are all legal — in considering records-clearing applications. The other allows faster record-clearing for people who were under 21 at the time of a past conviction.