The Alaska Supreme Court has announced that it would expunge cannabis convictions from the records of hundreds of Alaskans. An order signed by five Supreme Court justices revealed that the court would remove the cannabis possession convictions of 750 residents from the online court case database.
However, rather than completely expunge certain cannabis records, the court will simply shield them from public view. So while the general public would likely find it hard to see these records, the records will still be accessible for inspection at courthouses and via formal criminal background checks.
Only Alaskans who were aged 21 and older when they were convicted of possession of an ounce or less of cannabis will be eligible for the removal.
Alaska Court System general counsel Nancy Meade said that since cannabis has been legal in the state for eight years, the Supreme Court thought that it was not appropriate for people to suffer the negative consequences of having a conviction attached to their name on Courtview, the state’s online database of court cases.
Now that most states have legalized cannabis in some form, reform activists and lawmakers argue that it is wrong for people with cannabis convictions to continue being penalized for certain cannabis offenses. A criminal record can significantly impact your life in the United States by making it difficult to access employment, housing and education.
Obscuring, sealing or expunging nonviolent cannabis offenses from people’s records could shield people from the negativity associated with a criminal record and allow them to access critical services such as housing.
Rep. Stanley Wright says that there are a lot of people in his district who are held back by the barriers created by a publicly visible criminal record. A simple policy change or legislation could remove these barriers and change their whole lives, Wright said.
Sen. Scott Kawasaki was happy with the move and stated that he was glad the Supreme Court had ordered the removal of certain cannabis offenses from public view. Wright has joined nearly half a dozen independent and Democratic cosponsors in reintroducing a bill that would conceal cannabis convictions from criminal background searches and Courtview.
Alaska joins a growing number of states that are moving to either obscure or expunge marijuana-related convictions. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that 41 states in total have passed some form of regulation to obscure nonviolent, cannabis-related convictions.
These actions by the state Supreme Court peel back some of the vestiges of prohibition and send positive signals to allied industry actors such as Advanced Container Technologies Inc. (OTC: ACTX) since increased growth of the industry opens opportunities for these related companies.
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