Fresh bill grants Coloradans the opportunity to have their cannabis possession records expunged

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Lawmakers in Colorado are hoping to give cannabis convicts a second chance through offering record expungement for possession offenses. This idea has been proposed as part of House Bill 1090, which would increase Colorado’s existing recreational cannabis possession limit from one ounce to two ounces.

Having their criminal records sealed by the court with a pardon from Governor Jared Polis means that people who have previously been convicted of possession, but have not committed any crime thereafter, could find it easier to get jobs and avoid discrimination.

“We’re really looking for folks who had kind of a one-time hiccup, allowing those folks to get on with life,” said lead sponsor of House Bill 1090, Representative Alex Valdez. 

Proudly sponsoring the legislation alongside Denver Democrat, state Senator Julie Gonzales, Valdez says that the bill will help to solve the negative impact that cannabis prohibition has had on Black and Hispanic communities. 

“These sorts of crimes are often charged as accessory offenses, and more often than not, disproportionately impacted communities of color,” Valdez explained. “This helps us to right some of the social wrongs that were done prior to legalization.”

Following the passing of House Bill 1424 during the 2020 legislative session, Polis excused in excess of 2,700 people who were previously convicted for possessing up to one ounce of the green plant. Now, Colorado’s cannabis expungement legislation paves the way for the governor to excuse various other convictions.

House Bill 1090 could reverse damage causes by previous cannabis prohibition in Colorado 

After Colorado’s Amendment 64 was approved in 2012, numerous steps have been taken by state lawmakers to deal with repercussions caused by the state’s formerly prohibitionist approach to weed; mainly, black communities and people of color were most affected by the war on drugs.

In many cases, cannabis-related convictions can make it tricky to become a property tenant, gain employment and even to uphold parental rights following a divorce. At the current time, cannabis convicts are forced to file a court petition if they wish to have their records sealed. Fortunately for those who’ve been impacted as such, House Bill 1090 is expected to turn things around.

House Bill 1090’s passing means that two ounces of cannabis possession will no longer be deemed a criminal offense. Instead, the court would be ordered to seal convictions for people who meet specific criteria.

What else does House Bill 1090 entail?

Aside from the aforementioned aspects of Colorado’s cannabis expungement legislation, House Bill 1090 would also allow state residents who have grown 30+ plants – acknowledged as a “Class 3 felony cannabis cultivation conviction” – to appeal for their record to be wiped.

A total of 32 court cases that took place in the past two decades are likely to be sealed following the passing of House Bill 1090, according to nonpartisan legislative staff. 

It should be noted that Colorado’s cannabis expungement legislation does not apply to people who have been convicted of a different crime after being released from prison, nor does it apply to those who have a situation whereby the conviction-related criminal process has come to an end.

While it remains unclear as to how many Coloradans would be able to have their cannabis convictions sealed, nonpartisan legislative staff recently revealed in a fiscal analysis that 80 people were convicted of possession to the amount of two ounces between 2017-2018 and 2019-2020.

Now that House Bill 1090 has successfully been approved by the Colorado House, it awaits review in the Senate. On April 22, it will be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee.