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THE FOGHORN

Maine Lawmakers Vote to Seal Cannabis Conviction Records (But Not Automatically)


On April 16, 2024, Governor Janet Mills signed LD 2236, which addresses the sealing of cannabis conviction records and marks a key step toward clearing the records of Mainers previously convicted of marijuana-related offenses that are no longer criminalized by Maine law. In this blog post, we’ll focus on LD 2236 and its potential impact on social justice in Maine.


LD 2236 seeks to address the lingering consequences of past cannabis-related convictions. In 2016, Maine voters legalized adult-use (also known as "recreational") cannabis. The law permits individuals aged 21 and older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow up to six mature plants and 12 immature plants. However, in the decades prior to this legalization, many people faced criminal charges related to cannabis possession or cultivation.


While Maine has legalized adult-use cannabis, individuals with prior convictions continue to face barriers in employment, housing, and other aspects of life. Even misdemeanors for conduct no longer criminal under Maine law can have a serious chilling effect on employment, housing prospects, and reputation. The new law aims to mitigate these challenges by allowing for the sealing of certain cannabis-related convictions.


Key Provisions:


  1. Sealing Records: LD 2236 allows individuals with eligible cannabis convictions to petition the court for record sealing. This means that their convictions would no longer be publicly accessible, potentially improving their chances of finding employment and housing.

  2. Eligibility Criteria: Not all cannabis convictions are eligible for sealing. The bill specifies the types of offenses that qualify, emphasizing non-violent offenses related to cannabis cultivation, trafficking, or possession, which consist of conduct no longer prohibited under Maine law.

  3. Automatic Sealing: Unlike some other states, Maine’s law does not automatically seal cannabis convictions. Individuals must take proactive steps to petition the court for record sealing.

Potential Impact on Social Justice:


  1. Employment Opportunities: Sealed records can significantly improve an individual’s chances of securing employment. Removing the stigma associated with past convictions allows people to move forward and contribute positively to society.

  2. Housing Access: Many landlords conduct background checks before renting out properties. Sealing cannabis convictions can help individuals find stable housing, reducing homelessness and promoting social equity.

  3. Education and Licensing: Sealed records may also facilitate access to education and professional licensing. Individuals with prior convictions can pursue careers without unnecessary barriers.

LD 2236 represents progress in Maine’s commitment to social justice and in society's normalization of personal cannabis possession and use. While it doesn’t automatically seal cannabis convictions, it provides a pathway for individuals to reclaim their lives and wipe the slate clean of black marks left by outmoded criminal laws. As we continue to advocate for fairness and equity, this legislation serves as a ray of hope for those seeking redemption and a fresh start.

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