Last year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that automatically expunged more than 150,000 cannabis-related convictions, effectively making them impossible to view from the public. Now, the city is taking the next step in the process by accepting individual requests to destroy cannabis-related arrest records.
Any resident of New York who has a cannabis-related conviction on their record can apply to have these records erased, including arrest reports, prosecution records, and criminal history.
To apply, you must fill out a one-page form, which is available online or at courthouses. Once a form is completed, it can be filed in one of two ways. First, you can file it in person at the court with official identification. Or, you can send it by mail, only if first notarized by a notary public. It’s free to file but will require some basic information about the case, including:
- The individual’s name
- The county
- The court where the conviction took place
- The case number
- Current contact information
“Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by laws governing marijuana for far too long, and today we are ending this injustice once and for all,” Governor Cuomo (D) said last year in a press release. “By providing individuals who have suffered the consequences of an unfair marijuana conviction with a path to have their records expunged and by reducing draconian penalties, we are taking a critical step forward in addressing a broken and discriminatory criminal justice process.”
Exceptions to the Expungement
Once the records are approved to expunged, they are sealed from the public’s view permanently. This opens the door for so many people who were held back from opportunities due to the conviction.
There are two instances, however, where these records could be accessed again. According to the court’s press release, the only time you have to worry about someone having access to these records is if you’re buying a firearm or trying to become a part of law enforcement.
“Under the new law, convictions… have already been expunged, meaning that the court, arrest, prosecution and criminal history records related to these convictions are confidential and cannot be seen by anyone, except:
- A law enforcement agency to which the individual is applying for a job as a police or peace officer; or
- A pistol permit licensing officer/bureau to which the individual is applying for a pistol permit”
Fortunately, this expungement process is the first step in the process to legalize cannabis in New York. The next step is to allow adults to use cannabis recreationally. Ultimately, this is an equally great step in the direction of amending the community between its residents and the police force. Authorities have long used cannabis as a way to racially profile people of color. Hopefully, the police can start to worry about more serious offenses other than the smell of cannabis.