Maryland: Lawmakers Vote Overwhelmingly to Advance Automatic Expungement Measure

House lawmakers have voted overwhelmingly in favor of legislation facilitating the automatic expungement of past, low-level marijuana-related convictions.

Legislators decided 116 to 15 in support of House Bill 83, which mandates, “All court records and police records relating to any … charge of possession of marijuana, … where marijuana is the only charge, the case shall be automatically expunged on or before October 1, 2022.”

“Our current law enforcement approach makes every arrest a life sentence. Criminal records associated with marijuana possession plague individuals throughout the remainder of their life,” said Luke Jones, Executive Director of Maryland NORML and a proponent of the bill. “Forcing individuals who have already been burdened by their entanglements with our criminal justice system to independently navigate the complex record-clearing process to petition for their record expungement can prove extremely challenging, often requiring expensive legal assistance and the payment of court fees. This places record expungement out of reach for must of us. This legislation will help tens-of-thousands to move on with their lives and signal to law enforcement that we are changing the way to relate to marijuana consumers in Maryland.”

State lawmakers in 2017 enacted legislation permitting those with low-level marijuana conviction to petition the courts for an expungement. That process typically involves hiring a lawyer.

Earlier this week, House members voted 93 to 44 in favor of separate legislation, HB 550, which reclassifies offenses involving the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis from a criminal offense to a civil violation — punishable by a fine only, no arrest and no criminal record.