Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety posted an update on the state’s mandated expungement of thousands of marijuana-related criminal records on January 4, saying employees are “hard at work” to implement the automatic expungement process that was mandated under the legalization law signed by the governor in May 2023.
In the interim, the state has added a new notice to all criminal history records, essentially letting reviewers know that certain marijuana records that appear on records checks may be pending expungement.
An initial analysis showed that more than 66,000 criminal records are eligible for automatic expungement under the Adult-Use Cannabis Act, the department’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) announced in June, while another 230,000 felony records are eligible for review by the Cannabis Expungement Board.
Additional criminal records will be expunged under the Clean Slate Act, a separate law passed in 2023 that will automatically expunge records for non-violent, non-felony convictions beginning in January 2025. The department didn’t specify whether that would include any cannabis-related convictions not already eligible for expungement under the Adult-Use Cannabis Act, which affects records of activity made legal under the policy change.
“The BCA’s work to enable the automatic expungements of cannabis-related records is well underway,” the department said. “We have more than a dozen staff and contractors working to automate expungement of cannabis- and Clean Slate-related records. We’re continuing to analyze rules for identifying records and notifying law enforcement agencies and the Minnesota Judicial Branch.”
Our @MNDPS_BCA division is implementing a pair of decisions by #mnleg that requires expungement of certain criminal history records. Under the Adult-Use Cannabis Act and Clean Slate Act, eligible records will be expunged, removing them from public view. https://t.co/0gSpLZdet2 pic.twitter.com/EefIxKYegq
— MnDPS_DPS (@MnDPS_DPS) January 4, 2024
At the same time, the department said, staff have also begun developing “certain changes that will be required to be made” to the state’s Criminal History System (CHS) website.
Expungements are slated to begin in mid-2024, the department said.
Ahead of those changes, the officials have flagged all criminal history records in the database with language informing anyone viewing the record that certain cannabis-related incidents are pending expungement.
“While we continue to work on changes to CHS to make these expungements possible,” the update says, “we have added language to all criminal history records to indicate that a record may contain information about an act that is no longer illegal in Minnesota.”
Here’s what the new language being attached to records says:
“Minnesota Session Laws – 2023, Chapter 63, Article 5 requires automatic expungement of certain cannabis-related offenses effective August 1, 2023. While the Criminal History System is being updated to support the changes, an individual’s record may include cannabis-related offenses that are eligible for automatic expungement. In addition, an individual’s record may include cannabis-related offenses that are eligible for review by the Cannabis Expungement Board. The Board will determine whether the offense meets the criteria for resentencing or an order of expungement through the Judicial Branch.”
The language will remain in place “until work to complete the automatic expungement of qualifying records is completed.”
Expungements are slated to begin in mid-2024, the department said, “and we expect Clean Slate-related expungements will be implemented to meet the 2025 deadline.”
Meanwhile, Minnesota cannabis regulators are gearing up for rulemaking around the state’s forthcoming retail cannabis market, expected to open in 2025. The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) has been circulating a series of surveys meant to incorporate public input.
For now, adults 21 and older can already legally use, possess and grow cannabis for personal use under the new law. In August, Gov. Tim Walz (D) clarified that homegrown cannabis cannot be sold commercially.
Officials have also started soliciting vendors to help build a licensing system for adult-use cannabis businesses.
Minnesota’s cannabis law also allows Indigenous tribes within the state to open marijuana businesses before the state begins licensing traditional retailers, and some tribal governments have already entered the legal market. The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, for example, opened its medical dispensaries to adult consumers in August and announced plans to launch a mobile retail vehicle to sell cannabis at locations across the state.
The White Earth Nation also launched an adult-use cannabis shop, with its governing council voting to authorize marijuana sales in July. The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe has moved to legalize, too.
In September, the OCM hit a noteworthy snag when Erin DuPree, a cannabis industry consultant whom the governor picked to lead the state agency, stepped down after one day of work following a Star Tribune report that her hemp shop allegedly sold illegal products. Lab results reportedly showed elevated THC levels and the presence of banned synthetic ingredients.
That same month, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the odor of marijuana, on its own, does not establish probable cause for police officers to search a vehicle.
Even before the governor signed the reform bill, the state launched a website that serves as a hub for information about the new law. Officials have also started soliciting vendors to help build a licensing system for adult-use cannabis businesses.