As Vermont prepares to become the ninth state to legalize recreational marijuana, those punished in the past for weed misdemeanors are seeking forgiveness.
Prosecutors across the state are doing what they can to help. As in other states, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Glyn Wilkinson, a 70-year-old semi-retired carpenter who had two weed convictions in 1968, showed up at an Expungement Day workshop last week in Burlington, Vermont. Wilkinson’s records were so old, the prosecutor’s office had a hard time finding them.
“Can you really get used to it? You can forget about it, but it never really goes away,” Wilkinson said, per the Associated Press. “Today it can actually go away.”
David Cahill, prosecutor in Vermont’s Windsor County who also hosted a workshop similar, estimated there are roughly 2,800 marijuana misdemeanor convictions eligible for expungement in Vermont.
One man, 31, said he’d been working with Vermont Legal Aid to clear his record of two misdemeanor pot convictions that have prevented him from taking work in Canada.
“There are jobs I don’t even want to attempt to take, because it will look bad on my record with them if I get denied going into Canada for a job,” he said.
Vermont is one of the thirteen US states that borders Canada.
Canadian Border Services Agency have confirmed that people who are able to show their record has been cleared will allowed to enter the country.
As governments grapple with vacating criminal convictions for something that is no longer a crime, Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, has been looking at how jurisdictions nationwide are addressing marijuana convictions in the post-legalization world.
San Francisco, said Ms. Clarke, stands out for clearing thousands of marijuana convictions without requiring individuals to specifically ask.
“They are wiping convictions off of people’s records in one fell swoop, and my hope is that more officials will follow San Francisco,” Clarke said.
In Vermont, a bill that would have fast-tracked misdemeanor marijuana convictions for expungement died in a legislative committee earlier this year. The law still requires that the person seeking expungement begin the process on his/her own, an expensive and burdensome task.