Michigan voters overwhelmingly voted to legalize marijuana possession and use for
individuals over the age of 21 in the November 2018 election. However, this proposal did not
have any effect on people who had already been charged with low-level marijuana offenses and who have criminal records as a result. This begs the question: why should people continue to be punished for something that is now legal?
In July of 2019, State Senator Jeff Irwin introduced a bill that would automatically clear
the records of Michigan residents who have misdemeanor convictions for low-level use and
possession of marijuana. This would potentially expunge the records of 235,000 individuals in Michigan without requiring any court action or proceedings. Similar proposals have gained
popularity in other states like California, Colorado, Oregon, and Illinois. Both Gov. Gretchen
Whitmer and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel have also expressed support for clearing such low-level offenses from people’s records. This is largely due to the fact that a criminal record carries a stigma that can prevent individuals from accessing housing, student loans, and from many types of employment.
While this all sounds promising, the Michigan legislature has yet to take any action
toward pushing this bill forward and there will likely be a prolonged political battle over the
details of its implementation. Even if this bill passes, marijuana felonies and other more serious marijuana offenses will still require individuals to pursue expungement through the courts. Additionally, the political negotiations that take place in the meantime could exclude thousands of individuals that would receive automatic expungement under the current version of the bill.
Therefore, if you or someone you know are thinking about seeking the expungement of
a marijuana offense, it may not pay to wait for this political game to play out in the Michigan
legislature. If you feel that a prior offense is holding you back from pursuing your goals, whether or not the charge was related to marijuana, you should consider moving forward with the process to get your record expunged as soon as possible.
You are eligible to expunge your record in Michigan for one felony or two misdemeanor
convictions if five years have passed since either the date of your conviction or the day you
were released from custody or discharged from parole or probation. To be eligible for
expungement, the convictions must be for state crimes (certain crimes are excluded, such as
traffic-related offenses and some convictions for criminal sexual conduct). Why let past
mistakes hold you back any longer? Consider the potential benefits of record expungement. If you think it may be worth pursuing, consult an attorney and begin the process so that you can move forward with your life as soon as possible.