Oregon is again leading the way in drug policy reform. The state law which legalized the sale, possession and consumption of recreational cannabis in 2012 also allows for past convictions to be sealed.
Oregon was the first state to decriminalize possession of cannabis in 1973, and is the first to implement wide-scale sealing of records. There are free legal clinics in the state which assist people in filling out the paperwork necessary to have past cannabis-related convictions sealed. In doing so, these people are legally allowed to tell employers that they have never been charged or convicted of a marijuana-related crime.
Currently, residents with any low-level felony or misdemeanor conviction more than 10 years old can apply to have it expunged from their criminal record. Neither Colorado nor Washington have similar policies, leaving past convicts incarcerated or unable to find work.
In Ohio, however, residents will vote on a several state initiatives submitted by the group, ResponsibleOhio, in November. The first is a questionable cannabis legalization measure, that effectively monopolizes the market for a handful of wealthy business people. The other bill, known as The Fresh Start Act, will erase past marijuana convictions that are no longer illegal under the new legalization bill. The group is currently collecting the more than 90,000 signatures required to secure a spot on the November ballot.
Legalization of the sale and consumption of cannabis is a crucial step in ending the war on drugs. However, a willingness by state lawmakers to forgive people for violating unjust laws is even more necessary to facilitating societal progress and productivity.