Attorney General-Elect Phil Weiser Wants To Expunge Old Pot Convictions Statewide

December 14, 2018
Photo: Colorado Marijuana Smoker - AP
Grace Sisti, of Denver, smokes a joint on the official opening night of a marijuana-specific social club, Monday Dec. 31, 2012.

Attorney General-elect Phil Weiser said he’s actively reaching out to lawmakers to help on a bill that would expunge old pot convictions statewide.

Weiser is taking a page from Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who recently announced they would review convictions going back to 2001, for possible vacations. 

The incoming Democrat said people with convictions in other parts of the state should be eligible.

“There are all sorts of consequences that follow you for the rest of your life,” Weiser said, noting people with felony convictions can’t work in the marijuana industry.

Old convictions can also haunt job and housing applications, he said. 

“Or you apply for graduate school, and they ask you if you have committed a felony and you’re constantly reminded of this felony conviction that no longer is a crime,” he said.

A statewide effort like this would have to come from the legislature, but Weiser has offered his incoming office’s help with administering whatever may be created.

“We need to make this as easy as possible,” Weiser said. “The hard work gets to how do you do this, sometimes people have multiple crimes and things don’t easily fit in boxes … That’s something I’m keen to working with the legislature on to do it in the most fair and efficient way possible.”

Lawmakers last year passed a law that allowed those convicted of misdemeanors to seal criminal records if that past offense is not currently a crime. But critics said that puts the onus on the individual. Meanwhile, advocates would like to make expungement more automatic and easier for people walking around with old convictions. 

Officials in Boulder and Denver alone have said there are potentially more than 20,000 convictions that could be eligible for expungement. 

Boulder will accept applications to review and is also holding some open hours in January for people to come in and talk to prosecutors. Hancock’s office said they’re still working on their process with the district attorney’s office.

Weiser said an idea he was exploring with lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee was generating automatic letters for people with qualifying convictions. 

“We can fix this and we should fix it,” Weiser said. “I’m happy to put in the work and think we can and should take this step forward … For me, this is only to get to the right result.

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