This week it was announced that Oregon will be expunging the old records of marijuana offenders, along with their new legalization plan. This measure is the farthest that a state has gone to date in regards to applying the new laws to old cases. However, for people who remain in jail for having a plant, the legalization plan does not go far enough.
According to the New York Times, people who have low-level felony or misdemeanor marijuana charges on their record that are at least ten years old will be eligible for expungement.
While the transition in Oregon is nowhere near what is needed for the hundreds of thousands who are still incarcerated, the aspect that allows for old cases to be expunged is at least a step in the right direction, and is helping people clear their records so they can avoid discrimination.
“Oregon is one of the first states to really grapple with the issue of what do you do with a record of something that used to be a crime and no longer is,” law professor Jenny M. Roberts told the New York Times.
It is certainly true that people who have had prior marijuana convictions should not be denied a job or volunteering opportunity because they have a charge on their record, especially after the plant is declared legal. However, if this is the case, then surely people who are currently sitting in jail for doing the same thing should not be forced to continue their sentences for something that they should never have been prosecuted for in the first place.
It is extremely important to point out that as we gain these victories in the drug war, that there are still many people suffering, even in places where the laws become more lax.
As we recently reported, a prosecutor in southeastern Washington charged three teenagers with felony offenses for simple marijuana possession. According to The Lewiston Tribune, the children were 14, 15, and 17 years old and are now facing up to 5 years in prison for felony possession charges simply for carrying a legal item that they were too young to possess.
John Vibes is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter-culture and the drug war. In addition to his writing and activist work, he organizes a number of large events including the Free Your Mind Conference, which features top caliber speakers and whistle-blowers from all over the world. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can find his 65 chapter Book entitled “Alchemy of the Timeless Renaissance” at bookpatch.com.