North Dakota’s Pardon Advisory Board wiped the convictions of a few dozen low-level cannabis offenders on Nov. 27 in a historic move for the state.
According to The Associated Press, the board cleared the records of 26 people who were only accused of low-level cannabis convictions. The pardons were all approved in a single motion, not one at a time, but on the condition that all those pardoned have gone five years without any other sort of legal trouble. “People will really see how easy and quick this is,” said Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, a supporter of the policy.
Stenehjem predicts that over the next few decades, up to 175,000 people could be eligible to be pardoned. He is a Republican and is dedicated to clearing these past convictions for those who are eligible. He doesn’t support legalizing cannabis, but he is in favor of decriminalization.
Stenehjem does not support legalizing recreational cannabis, but he has long backed legislation that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis. The state also allows people to apply for pardons if they only had cannabis offenses, but they’ve since moved away from that due to a complicated, as the process was complicated. Now, applicants must complete a short form and don’t have to pay a fee.
The next round of pardons in the state will happen in the spring. This time, approximately 32 people applied but only 26 were approved and pardoned. The goal is to eventually boost the economy by allowing folks to reenter the workforce, effectively removing the stigma of prior cannabis convictions.
While originally known as one of the more conservative states, North Dakota has been making headlines lately for state officials’ acceptance of cannabis. They’re currently discussing topics such as different studies on cannabis legalization, and even the governor has stated his support for decriminalization.