Representatives Dave Joyce (R-OH) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) have introduced legislation to incentivize state and local governments to expunge the criminal records of those who have previously been convicted of marijuana offenses. 

Their bill, entitled The Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act, seeks to appropriate $20 million to the US Attorney General for the purposes of financially assisting states and local governments with the process of reviewing and expunging cannabis convictions. 

“This bipartisan effort represents the growing consensus to reform marijuana policies in a manner that addresses the harms inflicted by prohibition,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “It provides cash assistance for states and localities that are wisely choosing to remove these stigmatizing records. There is no justification for continuing to prevent tens of millions of Americans from fully participating in their community and workforce simply because they bear the burden of a past marijuana conviction.”

Legislatures in over a dozen states have enacted laws explicitly facilitating the expungement of low-level cannabis convictions. State officials have vacated an estimated 2.2 million marijuana-related convictions under these laws over the past two years.

“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 Rep. Dave Joyce. “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.”

Representative Alexandria 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.”

To contact your lawmakers in support of The HOPE Act, please visit NORML”s Take Action Center.

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