Getting caught with marijuana can have a lasting negative impact on a person’s life. Initially the person, depending on which state they live in, could get arrested, jailed, and/or have to pay a hefty fine.The ‘marijuana scarlet letter’ will follow them wherever they go as long as the offense is on their record.
This can make it very difficult for a person to get a job, find a house, and/or obtain financial assistance for higher education. A marijuana offense on a person’s record can literally ruin their life. That’s why expungement is such an important process to be afforded to someone who has been convicted of a marijuana offense. A marijuana expungement bill was introduced in Virginia, and is geared towards people that were convicted of a marijuana offense prior to the age of 21. Below is a summary of the bill (SB 796):
Expungement of certain charges and convictions. Allows a person to petition for expungement of convictions and deferred disposition dismissals for marijuana possession, underage alcohol possession, and using a false ID to obtain alcohol when the offense occurred prior to the person’s twenty-first birthday; all court costs, fines, and restitution have been paid; and five years have elapsed since the date of completion of all terms of sentencing and probation.
This bill could go a lot farther, but it’s certainly better than nothing. I don’t like that a person has to wait five years before they can get the conviction expunged. I think they should be able to file for it immediately after completing all requirements. Or even better, it should automatically fall off.
I don’t think that we will ever see marijuana legal for juveniles in America (or even young adults between 18-20), but we shouldn’t punish them to the point that they have to carry around the marijuana scarlet letter for five years before they can be free from it. Senate Bill 796 unanimously passed the Courts of Justice (12-0) and now heads back to the Senate floor.