MONUMENTAL LEGISLATION LAYS FOUNDATION FOR STATEWIDE EXPUNGEMENT OF PAST CANNABIS CONVICTIONS
This session, the Oregon state legislature gave final passage to the two most important cannabis bills of the session. These two bills -- SB 420 and SB 975 -- together help to restore lives for tens of thousands of people by allowing a free and expedited process to remove previous felony and misdemeanor convictions from their record.
SB 420 addresses the fact that, while expungement of previous marijuana convictions is permitted, it brings with it a costly, lengthy process that usually requires a lawyer to assist in identifying eligibility and proper filing. By passing this bill, the process is streamlined, giving access to potentially thousands of Oregonians who were swept up in criminal convictions due to previous marijuana laws to a fresh start—one without the negative impact a criminal record can have on job applications, housing and quality of life. If even a handful of Oregonians are able to apply for jobs or secure housing or live free of the stigma from these convictions, it is well worth our efforts.
SB 975 allows for a reduction of a sentence from felony downward if the activity you are convicted of is now considered a lesser crime than when convicted. While getting a fresh start is the goal, this sentence reduction will have a huge impact on getting people out of prison sooner than later.
Both these bills were strongly supported by Groundworks during the legislative session. The key legislators behind these efforts were State Senators Floyd Prozanski and Lew Frederick, and State Rep. Jennifer Williamson. The ACLU, the Urban League of Portland, and the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association were the true leaders in the effort to get these bills through. We thank them immensely.
All that aside—much like the law legalizing cannabis in Oregon—the bill is admittedly not perfect. It does require payment of fines, something that may prevent many lower income people from applying. However, Groundworks Industries is committed to coming back in February and trying to address this issue and have already been talking to some key supporters to make this edit to the final verbiage. In the meantime, Chief Compliance Officer of Groundworks, Geoff Sugerman, is working with the Urban League and others to organize events where people can kick start the process, identifying eligibility and next steps.
For more information on SB 420 and how you can help the bill’s efforts, visit the Urban League of Portland’s website: www.ulpdx.org.