cannabis grow house

In recent years, Minnesota has embarked on a transformative journey towards legalizing adult-use cannabis. As of August 1, 2023, Minnesota officially became the 23rd state to legalize recreational cannabis use.

Legally obtaining marijuana is still complicated in the state, with some estimates suggesting state-licensed dispensaries won’t open until early 2025. The exception are dispensaries on the Red Lake Nation and the White Earth Reservation.

As of now, the lack of dispensaries makes the legal situation somewhat confusing. The possession of less than two ounces in public, growing marijuana and using it is technically legal, but obtaining marijuana through legal means is still inconvenient and difficult for most Minnesotans.

There are also many outstanding questions about expungement of past marijuana offenses and pending cases against individuals for marijuana-related charges.

Restoring Lives Through Expungement in Minnesota

A criminal record can hinder a person’s access to education, employment and housing. Minnesota’s approach to restorative justice seeks to repair and rehabilitate lives that have been negatively affected by offenses that would retroactively be considered legal or minor.

The Adult-Use Cannabis Act and the Clean Slate Act mandates the automatic expungement of certain cannabis-related records in the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA)’s criminal history database. The process includes sealing arrest and conviction records, making them inaccessible for public view.

The Adult-Use Cannabis Act requires automatic expungement of specific cannabis-related records, while the Clean Slate Act, effective January 1, 2025, outlines a process for sealing a wider range of offenses (from petty misdemeanors to some non-violent felony offenses).

It’s important to recognize the difference between convictions eligible for automatic expungement under the Adult-Use Cannabis Act and convictions that require a review by the Expungement Review Board at the Minnesota Department of Corrections. Only about 66,000 cannabis records in the state are eligible for automatic expungement. The majority – 230,000 – will require a formal review by the Expungement Review Board.

If you’re not sure whether your record qualifies for automatic expungement or will require a review, it’s likely in your best interest to contact a criminal defense lawyer with experience handling expungements. An attorney can explain whether you need to take any action for expungement of your record.

Streamlining Expungement in Minnesota

The process of expunging prior low-level cannabis convictions in Minnesota is designed to be automatic. Eligibility is determined through a review that considers the nature of the offense, the amount of cannabis involved and the completion of required probation or sentencing. Records eligible for expungement under the Adult-Use Cannabis Act will require no action on part of the person who was convicted.

Charges that can potentially be expunged via the Clean Slate Act may require some effort on the part of the person who was convicted, including potentially a petition for expungement and review by the expungement board. Only non-violent offenses will be sealed if the person hasn’t been charged with any other crimes in a specific period of time.

Waiting periods between end of sentence and expungement (if no additional crimes are charged) are:

  • Two years for petty misdemeanors and misdemeanors
  • Three years for gross misdemeanors
  • Five years for non-violent felonies

Shifting Focus to Serious Crimes

One of the most significant advantages of recreational marijuana legalization is the reallocation of resources and attention to more relevant, serious crimes. The removal of non-violent, cannabis-related offenses as a law enforcement focus allows agencies to concentrate on matters that pose a more substantial threat to public safety.

This shift in focus enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of law enforcement efforts, ensuring that resources are directed towards tackling crimes with more significant societal impact.

Does Recreational Marijuana Legalization Change Anything for Workers?

Only if your employer wants it to. Private and public employers still have the right to pre-employment and routine drug tests for many positions and can deny employment to people who test positive for marijuana.

Will Having My Record Expunged Help My Job Prospects?

Expungement of prior low-level cannabis convictions in Minnesota can have a significant positive influence on future employment opportunities. If you’ve been denied past jobs because of low-level marijuana offenses on your record, expungement can prevent your past from standing between you and your future opportunities.

Expungement in Minnesota also removes barriers to some professional licenses, which is important for those pursuing careers requiring specific licensure.

Connecting with Compassionate Legal Support in Minnesota

Adult-use cannabis legalization and expungement in Minnesota marks a crucial moment in the state’s legal evolution.

As Minnesota continues navigating the evolving landscape of adult-use cannabis laws and expungement, individuals seeking legal guidance can connect with the Minnesota Lawyer Referral and Information Service (MNLRIS) to find legal assistance. This is especially valuable for people with records that may require a petition or communication with the expungement board to successfully expunge past convictions.

Connect with the MNLRIS at (612) 752-6699 or online to connect with experienced local attorneys in Minneapolis and St. Paul.