Cannabis Conviction Expungements Not Gaining Traction In Colorado

Grizzle explains the issues around the low take up.

The city launched a scheme called the Turn Over a New Leaf program to great fanfare in January 2019, creating an expedited process for anyone seeking expungement. It is part of a multi-pronged approach to ensure that communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs can benefit from the legalization of marijuana.

Denver revealed that around 12,000 people could benefit from having their criminal convictions sealed. However, only 441 residents have thus far applied for expungement and just 79 of them were eligible.

So far only 48 cases have been vacated, dismissed, or resulted in a conviction being sealed.

Denver Department of Excise and Licenses Director Ashley Kilroy insists the city has worked hard to explain the benefits of the program and help residents apply. Her team has visited jails in a bid to whip up support, but there have not been many relevant applications thus far.

Many of the 441 applicants either fell outside of Denver’s jurisdiction or had convictions that were not actually considered low-level.

One obstacle for the city is that Colorado state law does not permit automatic expungements, so it must address each case individually, which can become expensive. Denver has hosted five free clinics offering free legal advice to those with low-level cannabis convictions at a cost of more than $25,000.

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