On Friday, January 13, two leading legal and racial justice organizations are hosting a free expungement clinic to help those convicted of low-level marijuana offenses clear their records.
Hosted by 420NJEvents, a Black-owned cannabis lifestyle brand rooted in education and advocacy, and sponsored by Brach Eichler LLC, a leading NJ law firm in the cannabis industry, the clinic will help those who have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs. Attorneys from Brach Eichler will be onsite to provide pro-bono legal services to assist with the expungement process for non-violent cannabis convictions. The clinic will be held at the Doubletree by Hilton Penn Station Hotel in Newark from 10 am to 6 pm.
New Jersey voted overwhelmingly to legalize weed on election day in 2020.
Why Is This Important?
Actually, it is essential. As more and more states legalize cannabis, many Black Americans and other marginalized communities are still having trouble obtaining post-conviction relief. As a result of the War on Drugs, these groups were disproportionately arrested and sentenced on marijuana-related charges.
The ACLU’s 2020 report, ‘A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform,’ refers to how the “aggressive enforcement of marijuana possession laws needlessly ensnares hundreds of thousands of people into the criminal justice system and wastes billions of taxpayers’ dollars. What’s more, it is carried out with staggering racial bias.”
Indeed, Blacks are 3.8 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana despite similar usage rates.
Pardon Vs. Expungement: What’s The Difference?
While pardons, such as President Biden’s October pardon of 6,500 federal pot prisoners, provide a level of forgiveness for past crimes, these are not the same as expungements – which seal past convictions from public view.
A prior marijuana conviction, even for possessing tiny amounts, can have dire consequences and become a major barrier to accessing opportunities and much-needed resources to advance one’s quality of life, leading to a continuous cycle of economic hardships. These individuals cannot receive public benefits, apply for student loans or secure a well-paying job, to name a few drawbacks.
Hence, the expungement of simple cannabis offenses is essential.