Several states have legalized marijuana over the past few years, and legal sales are set to begin in at least one more state this year.
But what happens to the millions of people who are haunted by convictions that happened before the law changed?
That depends on where they live. In San Francisco, these people are getting a break. Prosecutors there have begun expunging convictions that happened before the state legalized marijuana.
Are other marijuana-legal states expunging or reducing marijuana convictions? Can a marijuana conviction in South Carolina be expunged?
Let's Just Pretend This Never Happened...
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón says his office is retroactively applying California's current marijuana laws to misdemeanor and felony cases going all the way back to 1975. More than 3,000 marijuana convictions will be expunged, and almost 5,000 will be resentenced.
Of the nine states that have legalized recreational marijuana as of this week, Colorado, Oregon, Maryland, and New Hampshire have included a process for people to have some past marijuana convictions expunged. In Massachusetts, lawmakers are also considering legislation that would allow people to expunge convictions for marijuana possession.
In these states, the expungement will not be automatic - people in these areas will still have to fill out paperwork and petition the court to clear their records.
Marijuana is Not Legal in South Carolina
Meanwhile, in South Carolina, marijuana is still illegal. If you get caught with marijuana, you will be arrested and go to jail. And there is no sign that will change anytime soon - at least for recreational use.
There is some hope for people who believe cannabis can help provide relief for their medical conditions. State lawmakers are still expected to consider a medical marijuana bill that was introduced last year but never voted on. The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act would allow people to treat certain medical conditions with cannabis prescribed by a doctor.
But, for now, both medicinal use and recreational marijuana use are illegal in South Carolina.
Can I Have My Marijuana Conviction Expunged in SC?
In South Carolina, you can have a simple possession of marijuana conviction expunged after three years if it was a 30-day misdemeanor in magistrate or municipal court and it is the only conviction on your record.
Unless you were convicted under the SC Youthful Offender Act (YOA), you cannot expunge a marijuana conviction for possession greater than an ounce, manufacturing, possession with intent to distribute, or distribution.
You can enter a SC pre-trial intervention (PTI) program before you are convicted or use what is called a conditional discharge to have the charge dismissed and expunged.
Your SC criminal defense and drug crimes defense lawyer at Axelrod and Associates can help you to determine whether your conviction is eligible for expungement. We can also represent you before you are convicted to help you keep the charge off your record through a dismissal, PTI, a conditional discharge, or trial.