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Marijuana legalization in MT gives hope to some people with a criminal record

Marijuana legalization gives hope to those with criminal record
Posted at 11:37 AM, Nov 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-11 13:37:50-05

Legalizing marijuana in Montana also means decriminalizing it, which means if you have it on your record, you may be able to get it removed.

“It allows for a person who has been convicted of a marijuana-related offense to either...seek expungement if the act that they were in trouble for is now legal, or...seek resentencing based on the new law,” explained Audrey Cromwell, a criminal defense attorney at Cromwell Law.

Marijuana legalization gives hope to those with criminal record

Recreational use of marijuana becomes legal on January 1, 2021, and that process gives those with a criminal history the chance to start an expungement process.

“Hire an attorney to help you file a petition to seek the expungement or resentencing in front of your sentencing court. Then the court will presume that you are eligible for that expungement unless the court determines that you are a danger to public safety or the county attorney objects,” Cromwell said.

Depending on that, the court can downgrade charges from felonies to misdemeanors to civil fractions or completely expunge the charges.

You may be wondering how long can this process take? Are we talking days, months or even years?

“It depends a lot on how the courts want to hold their own procedure and every court is different. Typically, in the cases in which we saw an expungement for misdemeanor offenses under a different section of the code, that typically takes a couple of months,” she said.

There are still stipulations including the amount of cannabis you can have, federal laws, and employment drug policies.

“If you have more than 2 ounces of marijuana, you can still be charged with a crime," Cromwell explained.

There’s still a lot of details left to be figured out, and a lot of that depends on this upcoming legislative session.

The recreational use of marijuana and expungement process only applies to people over the age of 21.