The bill would allow those with past convictions for marijuana possession to have their records sealed and expunged. It’s part of a larger push from lawmakers in the House and Senate, who are looking at ways to mitigate some of the effects of the outdated drug laws created during prohibition.

AOC, Joyce Introduce Bipartisan Bill for 'Immediate Relief' From Cannabis Convictions

AOC-Joyce-Introduce-Bipartisan-Bill-for-Immediate-Relief-From-Cannabis

 

“It just goes to show that legislators don’t have to agree on everything in order to come up with answers to the problems that regular Americans face.”

Opponents of the drug war applauded the unveiling on Thursday in the United States House of Representatives of a bipartisan plan to assist states in expunging cannabis convictions by lowering expenses and red tape via a new federal program.

“There is no reason for preventing tens of millions of Americans from fully engaging in their society and employment just because they have a prior marijuana conviction on their record.”

The Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act was introduced by Reps. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York). According to Ocasio-office, Cortez’s if the bill passes, it will establish a new federal initiative called the State Expungement Opportunity Grant Program, through which the US attorney general will be able to disburse funds to state and local governments “to reduce the financial and administrative burden of expunging convictions for cannabis offenses that are available to individuals who have been convicted.”

“Goes to show that legislators don’t have to agree on everything to find common ground on answers to the difficulties that regular Americans face,” Joyce, who co-sponsored the first Republican-led legislation to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level, tweeted.

“As a public defender and a prosecutor, I’ve seen directly how cannabis law breaches can deprive people of a lifetime’s worth of possibilities, from work to school to housing,” he stated. The effect of these squandered chances on whole families, communities, and regional economies has been grossly underestimated.”

“The HOPE Act would pave the road for enhanced economic possibilities to flourish alongside effective investments to correct the harms of the War on Drugs by assisting states in establishing and improving expungement programs for minor cannabis convictions,” Joyce stated.

“As we continue to advocate for the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana, this bipartisan bill will provide localities with the resources they need to expunge drug charges that continue to hold Americans, disproportionately people of color, back from employment, housing, and other opportunities,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement.

Funding from the State Expungement Opportunity Grant Program might be utilized for:

  • Technology to deliver low-cost legal assistance on a large scale;
  • Automating the process of expunging cannabis-related convictions;
  • Clinics that help people with the expungement process, include legal clinics;
  • The creation of a notice system for persons whose records have been erased;
  • If necessary, sealing records of cannabis-related convictions; and
  • Other creative collaborations are being formed to bring widespread assistance to those who are qualified for the expungement of a cannabis conviction.

Cannabis legalization supporters applauded the new legislation.

“This bipartisan effort reflects a growing agreement to change marijuana regulations in a way that addresses the harms caused by prohibition,” said Justin Strekal, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws’ political director (NORML).

“There is no reason for preventing tens of millions of Americans from fully engaging in their society and employment just because they have a prior marijuana conviction on their record.”

“At this time, most Americans live in a state that has legalized marijuana to some level,” said Maritza Perez, national relations director for the Drug Policy Alliance.

 

“This law will bring immediate relief to numerous folks who are still suffering as a result of the drug war,” she said.

“An expungement will open up more chances for work, education, and housing, as well as other life-changing privileges. This measure has the backing of the Drug Policy Alliance.”

 

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