7 in 10 Americans Believe Non-Violent Marijuana Convictions Should Be Expunged

A new survey shows an overwhelming percentage of Americans favor a bipartisan second chance bill that would seal federal marijuana conviction records after time served.

A new poll indicates an overwhelming bipartisan support for second chance legislation for nonviolent marijuana convictions. The national poll released in May from the Center for American Progress (CAP) shows 71 percent of registered voters who responded to the survey support the Clean Slate Act and 37 percent strongly support it.

The Clean Slate Act, introduced in April by Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-De) and  Congressman Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa), is a bipartisan bill that would seal federal court records for an individual who completed time served for non-violent marijuana convictions. A key finding of the CAP national survey was that support for the legislation transcends gender, age, race, and political party ties.

Rochester made her case for the bill in a new press release, arguing that the criminal convictions can lead to lifelong barriers for people working to find a way out of poverty.

“If our goal is to reduce recidivism and improve the lives of millions of Americans, we cannot allow hardworking citizens who served their time to be defined by their worst mistakes in life. With an inerasable criminal record, they are locked out of the American Dream,” she stated.

Some of the common barriers past marijuana convictions can create include difficulties finding a job, pursuing education or training, and purchasing a home. According to estimates from the Center for American Progress, roughly 9 in 10 employers, 4 in 5 landlords, and 3 in 5 colleges use background check systems.

“This creates a system that leaves many hopeless and trapped in a cycle of poverty, and it is time we broke that cycle” Rochester stated.

In short, the Clean Slate Act or H.R. 2348 would:

  • Seal the federal criminal record of an individual with a simple marijuana possession or nonviolent marijuana conviction.
  • Create a system for individuals to petition for their records involving nonviolent offenses to be sealed.
  • Require an automatic seal of records within 180 days for individuals who were acquitted, exonerated, or no charges were filed against them.
  • Allow district courts to assign public defenders to aid petitioners in the process of requesting a record seal.

The marijuana expungement bill does not apply to sex offenders or those convicted of terrorism or other national-security risks.
Expunging marijuana convictions

Reverse Damage Caused by the War on Drugs

Rebecca Vallas, Vice President of the Poverty Program at the CAP, stated in a press release that the decades-long War on Drugs has left many Americans paying the price for mass incarceration.

The Center for Economic Policy Research estimates losses associated with having a criminal record to be as high as $87 billion to U.S. gross domestic product per year.

“Following decades of overcriminalization, as many as 1 in 3 Americans now have some type of criminal record,” Vallas said. “In today’s digital era, any criminal record—even an old marijuana conviction—can stand in the way of jobs, housing, education, and more for years.”

“As our nation reckons with the toll that mass incarceration and the war on drugs have taken on communities across the country—particularly low-income communities and communities of color—our policymakers must not only prioritize sentencing reforms but also policies to ensure that families and communities ravaged by the war on drugs can move on with their lives and have a fair shot at a better life,” she added.

More Marijuana Legislation News

As marijuana reform policies grow in popularity, more state and national policies are under review. Just last week, Illinois lawmakers approved a recreational marijuana measure that the governor is expected to sign. To keep up with the latest marijuana legislation developments, visit our news page.