Should Marijuana-Related Crimes Be Expunged?

Many states are legalizing recreational marijuana. One of the biggest ideas has been to let everyone who was arrested for possession out of jail — and then subsidize starting a marijuana business for those individuals. Others go beyond “good ideas” and want legal action taken to expunge the records of those who were convicted of non-violent marijuana-related offenses. It’s not hard to figure out why. Society is starting to consider marijuana arrests, both past and present, as silly.

A bipartisan bill drafted by Republican Representative Dave Joyce of Ohio and Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York would fund these expungement programs at the state level.

Even this is difficult, though, because the government still classifies the drug as Category I — which, right along with heroin, is the most dangerous classification a drug can possess. Of course most of us know that the reasons behind these classifications are hardly scientific. No, they’re political.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) agrees. He tweeted, “The message across the country is clear: The vast majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana. @RonWyden, @SenBooker, and I are working to pass our Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act to end the federal prohibition and repair the harm done by the War on Drugs.”

The war, of course, was an abysmal failure — unless its underlying goals involved putting an enormous number of disproportionately African Americans in jail for non-violent crimes. 

Naturally, others have raised concerns to the presented legislation. Senator Robert Portman (R-OH) worries that marijuana will be laced with fentanyl to become much more dangerous than it is right now. 

And Representative Jay Obernolte (R-CA) tweeted his concern for “illegal marijuana operations in California that are stealing our water, inserting harmful pesticides into our ecosystems, and wreaking havoc on our public lands.”

It’s amazing how worried Republican representatives suddenly become regarding the environment when recreational marijuana filters into the debate! 

We’ll see where the legislation goes. But it seems unjust to continue putting people in jail for non-violent crimes that most states no longer criminalize.