Report: States Have Pardoned 2.3 Million Cannabis Convictions Since 2018

Since 2018, over 2.3 million Americans have had their cannabis-related convictions pardoned or expunged, with state courts leading the majority of these efforts, as detailed in NORML’s updated analysis on cannabis conviction relief efforts in the U.S.

Full story after the jump.

State courts have pardoned or expunged cannabis-related convictions for more than 2.3 million U.S. citizens since 2018, including about 500,000 in just the last year, according to an updated NORML analysis.

The report covers the publicly available data about cannabis pardons and expungements since sweeping efforts to relieve cannabis convictions first started to gain steam. Pardons, which forgive past criminal convictions, are granted by elected officials like a governor or president; expungement, which forgives and seals past convictions from the public, is typically enacted via the legislature or by voter initiative.

Ultimately, expungement policies have accounted for the majority of the relief, including some 800,000 cannabis convictions being sealed by Illinois state officials, more than 300,000 each in New Jersey and Virginia, and about 200,000 each in California and New York, although many other states have also enacted sweeping expungement policies. Elected officials meanwhile have issued cannabis pardons to about 100,000 individuals, the report said.

President Joe Biden (D) in December renewed his call for state governors to pardon state-level cannabis possession charges, a request he first made alongside the October 2022 blanket pardoning of all federal convictions for simple cannabis possession. The president expanded that action last month but he still stopped short of commuting the sentences of any prisoners currently serving time for cannabis-related convictions.

“Hundreds of thousands of Americans unduly carry the burden and stigma of a past conviction for behavior that most Americans, and a growing number of states, no longer consider to be a crime. Our sense of justice and our principles of fairness demand that public officials and the courts move swiftly to right the past wrongs of cannabis prohibition and criminalization.” — NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano, in a press release

Recent polling data suggests that a record 70% of Americans support federal cannabis legalization.

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