In 2012, Colorado voters legalized the use and sale of recreational cannabis. Now, thanks to a new push by Colorado prosecutors, thousands of Colorado residents in Boulder and Denver are eligible to have their marijuana possession convictions dismissed and sealed.
Prior arrests can negatively impact someone’s ability to secure a new job, housing, and educational opportunities. The “Moving on from Marijuana” program, launched by Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty, actively helps identify Boulder residents with misdemeanor use or possession arrests and works with defendants to have those records sealed.
The new initiative has already identified approximately 4,000 Boulder marijuana convictions that are no longer considered crimes under current state law. A similar program in Denver could help another 10,000 Colorado residents have their past marijuana arrest records sealed.
If you were arrested after 2008 for a marijuana offense that would no longer be illegal, you may be eligible to have those records sealed. Here’s how.
The information in this article is intended to summarize an existing program available to Boulder residents. It is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
What Marijuana Arrests Can Be Dismissed or Sealed?
According to 9News.com, individuals are eligible to have their records sealed if they are
- convicted of marijuana possession for less than 2 ounces of cannabis, or
- convicted of marijuana possession of less than 1 ounce of cannabis when also convicted of a drug paraphernalia charge.
Cases involving marijuana distribution or other charges will not be considered as part of the Boulder program.
The program is currently limited to arrests from 2008 and later, though D.A. Dougherty would like to see it expand to include older convictions as well as any non-marijuana related offense that is now considered legal under Colorado law.
Prosecutors will give highest priority to those residents who are most affected by their prior arrest conviction.
What’s the Process for Sealing a Marijuana Arrest?
For arrests from 2012 and after, defendants can petition the District Court to review their case and possibly have it sealed. This option is currently limited to defendants who have applied for post-conviction relief through the Colorado Judicial Branch.
To petition the District Court to have a record sealed, individuals first need to file a civil action in the county where they were arrested and/or criminal records were filed.
The Colorado Judicial Department provides step-by-step instructions for how to file a civil action (including the information and forms you’ll need).
For arrests prior to 2012, defendants can submit a Moving on from Marijuana application to the D.A.’s office to have their case reviewed. They have requested individuals refrain from calling or emailing during the process, as it requires additional resources to respond and could delay the review process.
The District Attorney’s office will also continue to review existing convictions and, when appropriate, file motions to vacate and seal convictions. This process can take time, however, and they recommend you submit a form rather than wait on them.
Do Other States Have Similar Programs?
Colorado isn’t the only state trying to help citizens get old convictions dismissed.
Vermont residents are able to have minor marijuana arrests removed from their records. California allows for misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions to be expunged, while also allowing some felonies to be reduced to misdemeanors. Maryland, New Hampshire, Oregon and Massachusetts have all made it easier for residents to have prior marijuana arrests expunged from their records.
As states continue to legalize recreational use and possession of marijuana, we can expect to see an increase in the number of minor marijuana convictions sealed or erased. Because you shouldn’t have to continue paying for something that isn’t even a crime anymore.
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