LAST WEEK, there was some surprising but welcome news: 6,000 non-violent "drug offenders" will be released from federal prison starting October 30. (Of those, one-third are not US citizens; their deportation hearings will begin immediately.) And that's just a drop in the prison mop bucket, as more than 2.3 million people are currently incarcerated in the US. An additional 40,000 prisoners could be eligible for release over the next five years.
I could write 10,000 words on how our drug sentencing system is wrong, racist, and a national disgrace. And, yes, that would be both a ton of fun to read and assuredly change things for the better—because I'm certain that officials from the US Justice Department read this column faithfully.
Instead, I'm going to tell you about a group doing something that will change things for the better, and it's free. If you've ever been arrested and charged for weed, take note.
A state law passed earlier this year permits certain convictions for marijuana to be wiped from your record. That's the "permanent record"—i.e., your criminal record, which can impact your ability to get student loans, a job, or even housing. Up 'til now, it's been pretty fucked-up that getting caught holding a few ounces of bud could screw up all aspects of your life for decades.
You can now have these convictions removed through a process that sounds painful and invasive, but isn't: expungement. And the Oregon Cannabis Association (OCA) is going to help past "offenders" do just that at Expungement Day on Thursday, November 5. The OCA is headed up by Amy Margolis (disclaimer: my lawyer and friend), who says, "Oregon is taking obsolete marijuana offenses off the books. They shouldn't remain on people's records, either. The OCA feels strongly that people's access to this critical service should not be limited by ability to pay for legal representation."
While the new law makes it easier to expunge certain offenses, you still need to navigate the legal process. The OCA will provide attorneys who can complete the paperwork at no charge. You'll be responsible for filing fees, and the conviction must have occurred in Multnomah, Clackamas, or Washington Counties. Space is limited, so interested participants need to RSVP at the website below ASAP. The event will be held at a location in North Portland, chosen by the group to illustrate how cannabis prohibition has disproportionately affected communities of color.
"Having a record can bar a person from participating in Oregon's new legal cannabis industry," Margolis says. "We want to be sure there is a level playing field when recreational retail licensing starts in January." To RSVP, visit newdayoregon.com for more information and to see if you qualify.