A Criminal Record Can Block You From Living Your Life.
A conviction for even a minor criminal offense (like marijuana possession) can mean a life sentence of sorts. Your criminal record can block you from getting a job, attending school, voting, borrowing money, obtaining certain licenses, and qualifying for certain services for your family.
It is a real problem, affecting many people. In 2018 alone, 663,367 people were arrested for cannabis-related offenses (40% of all U.S. drug arrests). But relief is on the way for some under New York’s new Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), recently signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo. A somewhat overlooked provision of the MRTA provides for automatic expungement (erasing) of records for individuals with previous convictions that are no longer crimes. Additionally, the MRTA provides the ability to reduce certain sentences, meaning an individual’s felony conviction can be reduced to a misdemeanor.
A new landscape
On March 31st, 2021 New York State passed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (“MRTA”) which legalized the use of cannabis recreationally for adults over the age of 21. It’s also legal in a similar capacity in 17 other states and is legal for medical use in 36 states. But under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, it is still illegal in the eyes of Federal Law. You can’t grow it, smoke it, or make gummies out of it. If you do, you may face serious consequences, including the loss of Federal contracts or even jail.
Some say the Federal law will change soon, but no big changes are imminent. So, what do you do if you are an employer trying to avoid liability? Or what do you do if your boss is trying to fire you for using marijuana legally? We are in the twilight zone, that space between what was, what is, and what will be. It’s sure a bit hazy. Let’s clear things up.