As well reported in this lengthy new Marijuana Moment piece, “Congressional Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Record Sealing And Other Drug Policy Bills In Key Committee,” today brought some notable action in the US House of Representatives on some criminal justice matters. I recommend the full piece, and here are excerpts :
A key House committee has approved a series of criminal justice reform bills—including bipartisan proposals to clear records for prior federal marijuana convictions, provide funding for states that implement systems of automatic expungements and codify retroactive relief for people incarcerated due to on crack-cocaine sentencing disparities.
The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), advanced the measures, as well as other bills unrelated to drug policy, during a hearing on Wednesday…. Nadler, speaking about a bill to provide funding to states for expungement purposes, stressed that “even just an arrest can present lifetime barriers to obtaining jobs, housing, education and put other opportunities out of reach.”
“Criminal record expungement and sealing is a pathway to employment opportunities for individuals with a criminal record and enable them to participate fully in their communities at a time when many industries continue to face labor shortages,” the chairman said. “These pathways that desperately needed.”
The congressman also voiced support for the federal cannabis record sealing bill, saying it is “critical in helping those with non-violent criminal records to rebuild their lives.” He added that the public is on board with the reform, as well as major employers who’ve endorsed the legislation such as J.P. Morgan Chase and Walmart.
Here’s a rundown of what the committee-approved bills would accomplish:
HR 2864: The “Clean Slate Act” from Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) would mandate the automatic sealing of criminal records for certain non-violent, federal marijuana convictions. It would also provide relief to people who have been arrested for other offenses that did not result in a conviction….
HR 5651: The “Fresh Start Act” sponsored by Rep. David Trone (D-MD) would provide federal funding to states that create their own systems of automated expungements. Though it does not specify the types of crimes that would warrant relief, a growing number of states are taking steps to implement systems of automatic expungement for marijuana convictions, and those states would benefit from the new funding….
HR 5455: The “Terry Technical Correction Act” from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) is responsive to a 2021 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that held that a law reducing the federal crack-cocaine sentencing disparity did not apply retroactively in cases that did not trigger a mandatory minimum sentence.
It would amend the law by clarifying that the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act was intended to provide individuals in those cases with relief, and so any motion that was denied on the basis of a court’s interpretation of eligibility under the statute “shall not be considered a denial after a complete review of the motion on the merits within the meaning of this section.”…
The crack-cocaine sentencing bill from Jackson Lee enjoyed some bipartisan support in the committee, with Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-OH) speaking in favor of the legislation ahead of the vote. He stressed that it was a necessary reform to align the law with congressional intent.
Republican members generally balked at the state expungements and federal record sealing proposals, however, arguing that they amount to “soft on crime” policies.