Similar to what most states with legal adult-use cannabis (and some without) have done, lawmakers in Maine will soon establish several bills meant to remove or close past marijuana-related convictions. However, at this point, legislators are just analyzing bill titles linked to those policies. Lawmakers have said that they are still to draft specific details about the plans or how the state would establish them. But currently, there are two competing approaches on the rise.
Three representatives of the state and one state senator have all suggested their bill title linked to cannabis-related convictions. However, the four proposals are classified into two basic camps. Both Rep. Richard Farnsworth’s (D-Orono) and Sen. James Dill’s (D-Portland) bills are meant to remove all previous non-violent misdemeanor cannabis possession convictions, as various states such as California, Washington, and Maryland and some top municipalities such Denver and Brooklyn have done. Typically, Maine would eliminate those criminal records for citizens. Alternatively, both Rep. Justin Fecteau (R-Augusta) and Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland) want to criminal cases to be sealed instead of being deleted. Sealing past criminal convictions means the convictions will still be on the record, but prospective employers or the public cannot see it. Information concerning the number of people who are qualified for expungement in Maine is not yet available.
Due to the distinct measures, the Legislature’s Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety will probably choose one or the other. According to some lawmakers, the decision will likely come down to cost. Rep. James Dill stated that proposals which require the state to invest resources in recognizing individuals with past eligible convictions could be able to file fiscal conservatives in the state legislature. However, critics of the bill will have a minimal role. Policy groups that were against the law in 2016 have even favored the proposal to expunge and seal criminal records.
All the bills representing past convictions are just a portion of the hundreds of measures relating to cannabis that will be taken up by lawmakers during this session. In 2016, voters approved adult-use legalization by referendum. However, legislators increased and eliminated different provisions in the version of the bill that became law. In 2019, lawmakers are still figuring out the twists and appease their localities as they understand the new industry. They’re also figuring out how to get some things correct that were left out on the first round.
Expungement is a useful case in point. Many states that have established adult-use programs have added expungement eligibility in implementation bills. Various states singlehandedly added these provisions in the voter initiatives. However, Maine did not. Indeed, the only legislative talks concerning past convictions were focused mostly on whether or not those with cannabis convictions were eligible in the legal industry.
Apart from expungement, Lawmakers in Maine other cannabis-related bills from the large to small. A single proposal would substitute the word “marijuana” (or “marihuana“) with the word “cannabis” in all state statutes. Another suggestion would permit cannabis businesses into bank with chartered credit unions.