Denver: Over 10,000 Cannabis Convictions Qualify for Expungement
Earlier this week, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock had announced a new citywide effort to expunge low-level cannabis convictions that occurred in Denver before recreational cannabis was legalized in Colorado.
According to the mayor’s office, more than 10,000 convictions for low-level cannabis crimes from 2001 to 2013 are now eligible for expungement.
For too long, the lives of low-income residents and those living in our communities of color have been negatively affected by low-level marijuana convictions. This is an injustice that needs to be corrected, and we are going to provide a pathway to move on from an era of marijuana prohibition that has impacted the lives of thousands of people,
Hancock says in a statement.
Denver residents can already try to expunge records on their own but the city will go one step further and proactively help everyone who needs some assistant, said Theresa Marchetta, Hancock’s spokeswoman. The city’s effort won’t help those convicted in state court though.
Last week, the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office announced that it would vacate and seal thousands of cannabis possession convictions. Denver officials haven’t said whether they will take a single action to clear thousands of cases, or whether they might help people clear their records individually.
The announcements are part of a years-long evolution of Colorado’s justice system, according to trial lawyer Colin McCallin. Until a few years ago, it was exceedingly difficult and costly to clear criminal charges — much fewer convictions — from a person’s record, he said.
In 2017, new state law allowed people to seal records of misdemeanor use and possession convictions, though they’re still required to pay filing fees.
Denver and other cities also have opened the door for people to clear some low-level convictions from their record.
There are already some mechanisms in place for a person with a low-level conviction to seal their conviction,
said McCallin, who previously worked with the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
Hancock hasn’t announced the exact details of the new program, but McCallin says there are several ways it could go,
depending on how proactive the Denver city government would be on this.
The city could simply provide help for people who want to use the existing process, which typically involves a $65 filing fee. Or the Denver City Attorney’s Office could
take the proactive step of filing their own request to seal en masse all of those cases,” The mayor also could issue an executive order,
But he cautioned that the effort could require the support of state agencies like the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and it could raise tough questions.
What is going to be considered a low-level offense for marijuana? Does it matter how many offenses a person has?
One thing is clear, he said:
There’s plenty of room for the city to help. I’m sure there are a ton of people out there who have these convictions who weren’t even aware that they can go to court and petition to get that expunged.
Coloradans voted to legalize cannabis six years ago.