A deeper look into the status of cannabis justice policy throughout the nation reveals that cannabis justice policy is rapidly progressing and has situated itself at the center of policy priorities. As of 2023, 23 states have enacted adult-use cannabis legalization, 24 states have enacted cannabis-specific record clearance laws, and 10 states have enacted cannabis-specific resentencing laws. Importantly, these criminal justice policies have become commonplace in recent legislation. In fact, since 2018, 100% of the 13 states that have legalized cannabis have included record clearance policies and since 2021, they have all been state-initiated. While resentencing policies have been slower to take hold, they are also growing in importance and have been included in more than half of the legalization bills since 2020. The increasing inclusion of these policies speaks to the importance of providing relief for individuals harmed by the historically unjust War on Drugs. Unfortunately, the report also shows that, despite the country’s progress in the breadth and depth of cannabis justice policy, we are still far behind. While more and more states are working to include retroactive relief for cannabis related offenses, the policy lags behind in every single state. While states such as California, Minnesota, Maryland, and New Mexico have strong statutory language, they have all fallen behind in actually offering relief to impacted individuals. In California, the deadline to effectuate record clearance has passed, yet, over 20,000 individuals are still without relief. In Minnesota, the structure of a separate review board has caused significant delays, leaving the state yet to appoint the board despite the instructed start date already passing. In Maryland, it is unknown if the state has begun to enact the criminal justice provisions. In New Mexico, the state has faced rollback efforts to limit the impact of retroactive provisions throughout the past two years. These implementation struggles make it clear that statutory language is only a start to effective change, and this report only touches the surface in evaluating the accessibility of relief. The progress of cannabis justice policy is promising, but an evaluation of their status shows that there is still much to be done.
State of Cannabis Justice Report