Vermont lawmakers are considering legislation that would expand cannabis expungements in the state by automatically expunging criminal records involving the possession of two ounces or less of cannabis, according to a VTDigger report.
The move comes as lawmakers in the House and Senate work on a final bill to tax and regulate cannabis sales.
House and Senate leadership say they support the expungement provisions, which would also decriminalize the possession of up to two ounces of cannabis, VTDigger reported. Under current law, possession of up to one ounce is decriminalized, according to the news outlet.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Sears (D-Bennington) told VTDigger that passing the expungement measure in the coming weeks, while the legislature reconvenes for a special budget session, is a priority. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Maxine Grad (D-Moretown) has also indicated support for the proposal, according to the news outlet.
“Criminal records are a barrier to employment, serving in the military, student loans, housing, and it’s very important to help folks with these criminal records get justice and clean their records,” she told VTDigger.
The expungement provisions come as lawmakers faced criticism from advocates for crafting a bill to legalize cannabis sales without adequately addressing racial justice issues, the news outlet reported.
While lawmakers backing the expungement measure have indicated that they don’t know how many records would be cleared under the proposal, the new law would likely impact thousands of past convictions, VTDigger reported.
Even if S.54, the larger piece of legislation aimed at creating taxed and regulated cannabis sales, fails to pass this year, Sears told VTDigger that he wants the expungement policy to be part of a separate bill, and he wants it to cross the finish line during lawmakers’ special session.
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