Cannabis prohibition has historically impacted minority communities as convictions for black and brown residents were 3.5X more frequent, and significantly harsher, in 2018, and the many years prior. Since cannabis legalization in New Jersey last February, processes have been well underway to expunge cannabis offenses for those convicted of use, possession, and/or distribution or sale of under one ounce of cannabis and less than five grams of hashish. The archaic laws that have disproportionately impacted minority communities have held people back from getting a job, fostering children, or even attempting to get a lease on an apartment.
The New Jersey Supreme Court has created an automated process to expunge cannabis and hashish offenses that qualify immediately. So far, over 362,000 cases of cannabis offenses in New Jersey have been dismissed or vacated. Offenses for possession of drug paraphernalia and being under the influence of cannabis or hashish have also been removed. More than 1,200 people charged with cannabis offenses have been released from probation. All offenses that qualify will be cleared and no longer show up on background checks or in the system of state law enforcement.
While many charged with cannabis crimes are breathing a sigh of relief, some cases prove to be more complex. Cannabis charges that include non-drug-related offenses will still stand and require judicial review to be expunged. That means many who were charged with a cannabis-related crime along with additional offenses will have to stand before a judge to argue their case, and many of these cases will not be overturned.
Those looking for confirmation of the removal of cannabis-related charges can obtain a “certification” from the court that heard the original charge or visit the New Jersey Supreme Court in Trenton. To date, over 6,000 certifications have been issued to confirm the removal of cannabis-related offenses from records.