On Nov. 6, 2018, the state of Michigan joined nine other states legalizing recreational marijuana.
With the passing, individuals 21 and older can purchase, possess and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles and grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal consumption. Residences can keep 10-ounces in the home and carry up to 2.5 ounces in public and businesses can apply for licenses to sell.
With the legalization in Michigan and other states comes the question of what to do about people charged or convicted of marijuana offenses now legalized. It’s a question legislators at the state and federal level are considering, and different states who’ve legalized the plant are handling it in different ways.
In places like Colorado, California and Washington, legislation is already in place and hundreds, if not thousands, of drug convictions were tossed out opening the door for those people to find jobs, housing and a new life.
In Michigan, the picture is more confusing.
In Otsego County, Prosecutor Brendan Curran said the county is “essentially” dismissing cases with low-level possession or use offenses since Nov. 6. Macomb and Oakland counties are also taking steps to dismiss low-level charges.
Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker originally said misdemeanor marijuana cases would be dismissed following the election. Two weeks later, reports showed that was not completely the case.
Safe and Just Michigan is an organization working to advance policies that end over-use of incarceration in Michigan.
Executive director, John Cooper believes his organization will make marijuana cases a priority 2019. Leaders will decide whether cases are considered on a case-by-case manor, with sweeping expungements in a bulk fashion, or if they remain on a person’s record.
“There are still some unknowns when it comes to a legislative solution but there is a strong case for it,” Cooper said. “I would expect there to be some effort by legislators in 2019.”
While there are more questions than answers about the future for individuals with past charges or convictions, the increase in legalizations at least paints a different picture for convicted offenders in the future.