US Marijuana Laws: Will Records Be Wiped Clean?

Post Date: January 30, 2014

(BBC News) — Moves across the US to legalise marijuana have been greeted by reformers as heralding the end of the “war on drugs”. But what happens to people convicted of offences that no longer exist? And will the records of those arrested now be wiped clean?

This is a big year for American pot smokers. Business has been brisk at shops in Colorado where, for the first time, people can buy marijuana to smoke purely for pleasure. Stores in Washington state are set to open in a few months and others may follow, as authorities eye a new source of tax dollars from a policy that now has broad popular support.

Yet as the momentum for reform has gathered pace, one issue has largely been brushed aside – the fate of those arrested in the past.

Every year for more than three decades, hundreds of thousands of marijuana-related arrests have been made across the US. According to activists, tens of thousands of those arrested for cultivating, selling and trafficking marijuana are currently incarcerated. At least 12 men are serving life-without-parole sentences in federal prisons for marijuana-only, non-violent offences. Read more