Effort Begins to Expunge Criminal Records for Cannabis Use

Feven Gerezgiher reports:


Last Saturday a Minneapolis dispensary ran Minnesota’s first cannabis expungement clinic, working to clear the criminal records of 44 people with non-violent cannabis convictions.


Jon Geffen is Director of the Reentry Clinic at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law and provided pro bono legal services along with his students. He says without expungement, people lose opportunities to live the lives they want.


“We had a nurse lose a job based on a cannabis related offense,” he said. “We had a lot of people denied housing based on low level cannabis offenses. In Minnesota, a small amount of marijuana is a petty misdemeanor, which is actually defined as not a crime. But you know, landlords, employers, they don’t know that. They don’t care.”


Vireo Health’s Director of Medical Education Dr. Paloma Lehfeldt co-organizes expungement clinics for medical marijuana dispensaries across several states, including for Green Goods Minneapolis. 


“Being a member of this industry, it’s my responsibility and our responsibility as a company really, to, you know, right the wrongs caused by the so-called war on drugs,” she said. 


Lehfeldt says the stigma against cannabis has its roots in efforts to demonize Mexican refugees in the early 1900s. She says people of color continue to be arrested at a much higher rate than their white counterparts.


“People think that drug prohibition and drug criminalization, especially of cannabis, has waned in the years, but it really hasn’t,” she said.


Last year, an ACLU report found that Black people in Minnesota are 5.4 times more likely to be arrested for weed possession, despite similar rates of use.

Photo Credit: Vireo Health


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