Lawmakers have advanced legislation (HB 4392) to the Governor’s desk amending state law so that the courts can no longer deny petitioners’ requests to have their criminal records expunged solely because of a marijuana drug test failure.
Under existing law, petitioners seeking to have a qualifying criminal conviction expunged must provide evidence that they have taken a drug test 30 days prior to filing their petition and that they have tested negative for the presence of cannabis or other controlled substances. The pending measure states that a positive test result for cannabis will no longer make a petitioner ineligible for expungement.
The legislation stipulates, “[T]he court shall not deny a petition to expunge or seal … because the petitioner has submitted a drug test taken within 30 days before the filing … that indicates a positive test for the presence of cannabis within the petitioner’s body.”
It now awaits action from Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Lawmakers passed legislation in 2019 that legalized adult-use marijuana possession and sales. The Governor later signed separate legislation into law providing for executive clemency to those with low-level marijuana possession convictions (30 grams or less), and permitting those with convictions for the possession of larger amounts (30+ grams to 500 grams) to petition the courts for an expungement of their records. The Governor’s office has already used its clemency power to provide relief to over 500,000 residents with low-level cannabis convictions.
NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano called the legislation “a common sense fix. Those seeking to expunge their records should not be penalized simply because they have recently engaged in behavior that is now perfectly legal under state law.”
In recent months, state and local officials nationwide have moved to either expunge or seal the records of over two million people with prior cannabis convictions. According to nationwide survey data compiled by YouGov, 57 percent of US adults say that they support expunging marijuana-related convictions for non-violent offenders. Seventy-two percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Independents endorse the policy.
A state-by-state breakdown of marijuana-specific expungement laws is available from NORML here.