When state legislators passed a criminal justice reform bill in 2018, Massachusetts residents won the ability to clear away certain criminal records — including convictions for marijuana possession and other now-legal activities — that can make it difficult to land a job, rent an apartment, and otherwise move on with life.
But three years later, only a fraction of those who are likely eligible for relief have had their records expunged.
Massachusetts Probation Service data suggest that people who were previously arrested for, charged with, or convicted of a crime submitted just 2,186 petitions to expunge their records between January 2019 and July, of which 352 were eventually approved by state judges, or about 16 percent.
And of those 352, probation officials could definitively identify only 17 related to marijuana, a statistic they first began tracking (partially) in January.
While the state could not say exactly how many people are potentially eligible for expungements, advocates insist the pool runs into the tens of thousands.
For example, there were about 68,800 civil or criminal violations for marijuana possession issued in Massachusetts from 2000 through 2013, and 8,000-plus arrests for selling or possessing marijuana each year from 1995 to 2008, according to a Cannabis Control Commission research report and an ACLU analysis. And cannabis charges are only one of a number of past incidents that can be wiped clean under the law after enough time has passed. [Read more at The Boston Globe]
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