Rhode Island Expunges Over 23,000 Cannabis Possession Records

    The Rhode Island judiciary system has expunged more than 23,000 marijuana possession records, completing the first phase of cannabis relief directed under the state’s legalization law and an executive order from the state Supreme Court.

    The judiciary said in a June 8 press release that “3,015 individual cases were expunged in the Superior Court, 10,650 in the District Court, and 9,952 cases in the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal.”

    Courts and law enforcement worked together to provide the automated relief, which follows the state enacting adult-use legalization last year. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Suttell then issued an executive order in January establishing procedure for mass expungements.

    “The automatic expungement of marijuana charges has been an organizational feat,” State Court Administrator Julie Hamil said in the new announcement. “There has been coordination at every level of the Judiciary to execute this process in a timely and holistic fashion.”

    “The RI Judiciary has executed the auto-expungement of marijuana charges in a near seamless manner.”

    Phase two of the expungement process will involve clearing cannabis possession records for cases involving multiple criminal violations, and that’s currently in the planning process. Officials must complete that phase by July 1, 2024.

    “The RI Judiciary has executed the auto-expungement of marijuana charges in a near seamless manner and so many Rhode Islanders are grateful for its expediency,” said Mavis Nimoh, executive director of the Center for Health and Justice Transformation. “Common sense policy on criminal record relief is desperately needed as the state enters into a burgeoning economy that for far too long has penalized its citizens.”

    People may also submit requests to the court for expedited expungements under the court justice’s executive order. Fees would be waived for those who make the request, and they would need to be processed within five business days.

    Multiple states and territories have worked to provide relief for those with prior marijuana convictions in recent years.

    For example, the Louisiana Senate approved a bill on June 5 to streamline expungements for people with first-time marijuana possession convictions, sending it to the governor’s desk.

    The governor of Ohio also signed a major criminal justice reform bill this year that will let cities facilitate mass expungements for people with certain drug-related convictions, including marijuana possession of up to 200 grams.

    A report from NORML, released late last year, found that state government officials have provided nearly 2 million pardons and expungements to people with low-level marijuana convictions over recent years.

    Back in Rhode Island, a Senate committee recently approved Gov. Dan McKee’s (D) appointees for a cannabis commission to oversee the legal marketplace.

    On June 6, a House committee also passed a bill that would legalize possession and cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms, while taking steps to prepare for regulated therapeutic access pending federal reform.



    Photograph of Rhode Island Supreme Court by Swampyank via Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons 3.0

    This story was originally published by Marijuana Moment, which tracks the politics and policy of cannabis and drugs. Follow Marijuana Moment on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for its newsletter.

    • Kyle is Marijuana Moment‘s Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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