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11.10.22 – Fox 45 – MARYLAND (WBFF)

Maryland voters have spoken, with just over 65% of them voting yes to legalizing recreational marijuana on Tuesday.

The new law means starting next year, a small amount of cannabis will be de-criminalized for those 21-years-old and up. But what does this mean for those with prior drug convictions?

“It really is going to open up the door for a lot of people who for many reasons it was shut to for years and years,” said Angus Derbyshire, a lawyer with Maryland Legal Aid.

Derbyshire sat down with FOX45 at an expungement clinic put on by Maryland Legal Aid in West Baltimore. He says the change to Maryland’s marijuana law will be life-changing for many.

“I think conviction in any case, including marijuana charges, can have a significant impact on people’s ability to access jobs and access housing,” he said.

Accompanying the law that will legalize marijuana for recreational use, expungement provisions were also put in place when Question 4 passed on Tuesday. The revised code will automatically clear all simple possession charges when it’s the only charge. That will be completed by July 1st of 2024. However, Derbyshire advises you not to wait around.

“While it might happen automatically, you can also take an affirmative step up. If it’s been more than four years and you have a conviction of possession marijuana charge, it likely can come off now,” he said.

You don’t even need a lawyer to file a petition, for $30 anyone can fill out a form on the Maryland Judiciary’s expungement page. The new law also allows for the resentencing, and in some cases release, of those currently incarcerated for a cannabis charge.

As for those with an intent to distribute charge, “Before, possession with intent to distribute charges wouldn’t come off people’s records for 15 years,” explained Derbyshire, “So, under the new statute those charges can now come off after four years.”

Ultimately, Derbyshire says what this law really does is break down barriers for those searching for a clean slate.

“It’s amazing the number of people that will walk out here today who say, now I feel like I can go out and get that nursing license or I can get that job that they’re looking for my CDL. So, it really kind of opens new doors and avenues not just for that person but for generations after,” he said.

Maryland Legal Aid is currently hosting about 3 to 4 of these expungement clinics a week. If you’re interested in taking advantage of them you can find the details on their website.