Expecting Expungement Denver mayor announces plans to expunge low-level cannabis convictions

On Dec. 4, 2018, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock announced a citywide effort to acquit low-level cannabis convictions that occurred before the passage of Amendment 64, which legalized recreational cannabis in Colorado in 2012. According to the statement from the mayor’s office, more than 10,000 people were convicted of minor cannabis crimes in Denver between 2001 and 2013.

Now that the laws have changed, Hancock believes that it’s unjust to still consider these convictions criminal acts and people should be given the chance to have their cases reviewed and overturned. “For too long, the lives of low-income residents and those living in our communities of color have been negatively affected by low-level marijuana convictions,” Hancock said in the statement. “This is an injustice that needs to be corrected, and we are going to provide a pathway to move on from an era of marijuana prohibition that has impacted the lives of thousands of people.”

This decision was preempted after the cases have been thoroughly reviewed by the Office of Marijuana Policy, the City Attorney’s Office, the District Attorney, Denver County Court and stakeholders with the purpose of creating a process that will eliminate these convictions in 2019. Mayor Hancock set this in motion forward back in June 2018 when he identified his support to have these minor crimes expunged.

In addition to the abolishment of low-level cannabis crimes in Denver, there is also an effort to make sure that those who were negatively affected by the “War on Drugs” are able to benefit from legal cannabis. City officials are digging up numbers on how cannabis tax revenue can assist low to moderate income communities. They are also evaluating regulatory and business issues within the industry that restrict people from working and operating business. “We need to better understand the obstacles, business conditions and regulatory hurdles preventing individuals from seeking employment or business ownership in the cannabis industry,” said Hancock. “We believe in equal opportunity for all, and that includes those working in the cannabis industry.”

The statement reports that the cannabis tax revenue in Denver made up 3.41 percent of Denver’s overall revenue in 2017. The mayor’s office said that figure is projected to rise approximately 3.6 percent in 2018. Cannabis industry jobs hold about two percent of Denver’s total employment.

“For too long, the lives of low-income residents and those living in our communities of color have been negatively affected by low-level marijuana convictions.”

 

The expungement movement and Hancock’s desire to improve equality in Denver’s cannabis industry is coupled with his proposal to raise recreational tax from 5 to 5.5 percent. The extra revenue will go towards building affordable housing in Denver, developing more than 6,000 units over the next five years.

The Boulder County District Attorney Office is also setting in motion the expungement of low-level cannabis possession convictions. The initiative was started by former District Attorney Ken Kupfner, who investigated and found that there have been about 4,000 cannabis-related crimes since 2008 that are now no longer considered criminal due to the passing of Amendment 64. Kupfner started the motion to overturn the convictions and Michael Dougherty, Boulder’s new DA, is on board. “District Attorney Michael Dougherty is committed to pursuing justice in every case and assuring that now legal conduct does not continue to have an adverse impact on people’s lives,” the office stated in a press release. “It is a matter of fundamental fairness.”

Boulder’s initiative is called “Moving on from Marijuana” and will allow people who were convicted of low-level cannabis crimes in Boulder to submit applications online for possible appeal, which will be reviewed by the DA’s office. The court sessions will commence on Jan. 10 at the Boulder Justice Center.

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