Our neighbor to the west takes a decidedly more relaxed approach to cannabis. Nevada legalized medical cannabis more than 20 years ago. Recreational use was legalized in 2017. Now, at least one county is looking to automatically seal the records of people convicted of cannabis crimes prior to full decriminalization.
The Clark County Commission recently awarded $500,000 each to two nonprofits that work on behalf of those looking to have cannabis convictions and their associated records sealed. The commission also awarded $200,000 to a third group to explore the idea of automating record sealing.
A Long and Costly Process
Nevada is like most other states in that they allow convicted felons to petition the courts to seal their records. Anyone convicted of a cannabis-related crime prior to 2017 could seek to have those records sealed. But the process is long and costly. That presents problems for some people.
Imagine someone convicted of a cannabis crime way back in 2010. The crime occurred more than a decade ago, yet the public records still exist. If that person doesn’t have the money to pay for an attorney and cover court costs, there is little hope of having the records sealed.
Here is the problem: felony records can be used to deny people jobs. They can be a factor in denying someone housing. Someone convicted of a crime involving a substance that is now legal needs to continue living with the consequences of past actions if petitioning the county court is out of financial reach.
Moving On with Life
We assume that most of the people affected by the current state of affairs simply want to move on with their lives. But doing so is not always that easy. There are complications, including having criminal records in multiple counties. Just because records are sealed in one county does not mean they are sealed elsewhere. So a convicted felon needs to petition courts in multiple counties. That means more money and court appearances.
We assume that, as a medical cannabis user yourself, you would want any and all records pertaining to your medical cannabis card sealed if there was any possibility that they could be used to deny you employment or housing. Should those convicted of cannabis crimes have to go through such a long and arduous process just to get on with their lives?
There is no easy answer here. There are valid opinions on both sides. What’s more, both sides can make very compelling cases in support of their positions. Regardless of what the Clark County Commission ultimately decides, one side is going to be unhappy.
If They Go Automatic
Should Clark County, Nevada decide to go automatic in sealing cannabis criminal records, cannabis felons will no longer have to petition the court. They will no longer have to explain why they want records sealed or justify the reasons for doing so. All cannabis-related criminal records pertaining to cases from before decriminalization would automatically be sealed.
It will be interesting to find out what the Clark County study reveals. We will not take a position one way or the other, but we will say that looking into the matter is worthwhile. Legitimate concerns exist over past records of all sorts of crimes, not just those related to cannabis.
In the meantime, remember that Utah law is very strict about medical cannabis possession and consumption. Do yourself a favor and abide by the law as written. We will do the same here at Beehive Farmacy. It is the right thing to do, especially if we hope to make the law better.