Two months from today, Minnesota will begin the process of removing low-level marijuana convictions for those who have them on their criminal records.
It is part of the legalization bill signed into law earlier this week. For most minor convictions, those who are affected can expect an automatic expungement. Past offenses will no longer be in public view, meaning they will not show up in places like background checks for jobs.
Munira Mohamed, policy associate for the ACLU of Minnesota, said the action is a long time coming in addressing arrest disparities in Black and brown communities around the state.
“What we see in a lot of statistics is that white and Black people equally use marijuana, and equally possess marijuana,” Mohamed pointed out. “But Black people get arrested 5.4 times more than a white person in Minnesota.”
The statistic comes from a 2020 report issued by the ACLU. In the Legislature, Democrats made a strong push this session to adopt a bill legalizing recreational marijuana for adults. Passage included a handful of “yes” votes from Republicans. GOP lawmakers expressed support for the expungement element of the plan, but had broader public-safety concerns.
For marijuana convictions carrying more weight, a special review board will be created to determine whether actions such as reducing sentences should be taken. Collectively, Mohamed predicts the provisions will help a lot of people move on with their lives.
“For example, being caught even with the smallest amounts of marijuana before, it could risk your housing status, your employment opportunities, child-custody determinations,” Mohamed outlined.
Just like the criminal record aspect of the bill, marijuana legalization in Minnesota will begin August 1. Small amounts will be allowed for adults, including limitations on how many plants people can grow in their homes. State officials suggest retail sales could begin around the start of 2025.
Mike Moen writes for Minnesota News Connection.