AOC, GOP Congressman's New Marijuana Bill Seeks State-Level Cannabis Expungements

Ohio Republican Rep. Dave Joyce and New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced new legislation on Thursday that would help states expunge criminal records for people with convictions for non-violent cannabis offenses. 

The bipartisan bill, which they’re calling Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act, would set up a “State Expungement Opportunity Grant Program” through the U.S. Department of Justice to reduce states’ costs for processing expungements.

“Reforming cannabis law is not a partisan issue. Americans in both parties overwhelmingly support it. So, we just introduced a bipartisan bill with Dave Joyce to encourage localities to expunges cannabis offenders,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on her Twitter account.

The bipartisan bill, according to several Ohio outlets, would allot $2 million a year for grants between 2023 and 2032. It also would require the U.S. Attorney General to study how cannabis offenses affect peoples’ criminal records and report on what it costs states to incarcerate people convicted of non-violent cannabis offenses.

Specifically, the grants could be used by states to purchase technology used to facilitate expungements at scale, automate the relief process, fund legal clinics to help people get their records cleared and support “innovative partnerships” to provide mass relief. 

“Having been both a public defender and a prosecutor, I have seen first-hand how cannabis law violations can foreclose a lifetime of opportunities ranging from employment to education to housing,” said Joyce, a co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, in a statement. “The collateral damage caused by these missed opportunities is woefully underestimated and has impacted entire families, communities, and regional economies. By helping states establish and improve expungement programs for minor cannabis offenses, the HOPE Act will pave the way for expanded economic opportunities to thrive alongside effective investments to redress the consequences of the War on Drugs.”

Ocasio-Cortez added, “As we continue to advocate for the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana, this bipartisan bill will provide localities the resources they need to expunge drug charges that continue to hold back Americans, disproportionately people of color, from employment, housing and other opportunities.” 

The legislation is endorsed by the U.S. Cannabis Council, NORML, CPEAR, National Cannabis Roundtable (NCR), Last Prisoner Project, National Cannabis Industry Association and Drug Policy Alliance.

“Today, millions of Americans struggle to access housing, educational opportunities, and gainful employment simply because they have a cannabis criminal record,” said a statement from Sarah Gersten, executive director and general counsel of Last Prisoner Project. “This means that for too many, something as small as a marijuana possession arrest has effectively sentenced them to a lifetime of poverty.”

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Posted In: CannabisGovernmentNewsRegulationsTopicsFDAMarketsPress ReleasesGeneralAlexandria Ocasio-CortezCannabis ExpungementRep. Dave Joyce
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