Michigan Governor Just Signed Legislation to Expunge Tons of Pot Convictions
The “Clean Slate” legislation not only aims to expand criminal justice reform, but it's also a method to stop continually punishing Drug War victims for past offenses that are legal today.
Published on October 13, 2020

Just a few days after authorities busted a plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the President taunting her about it over Twitter (such leadership!), Michigan’s highly principled governor signed legislation on Monday that will expunge cannabis conviction records of numerous low-level offenders in the state.

The weed expungement bill is part of a bipartisan criminal justice reform package called “Clean Slate.” The package includes further measures to expand and simplify the process for Michigan residents to eradicate other types of criminal records, as well. Whitmer signed each of the measures into law.

Solid majorities of both Democrats and Republican lawmakers in Michigan voted to approve the Clean Slate package last month.

The specific marijuana legislation will enable those convicted of misdemeanor pot crimes to apply for expungements, since weed has been legal in Michigan since 2018. The law does not apply to felonies that warranted sentences of 10 years or more.

The larger expungement legislation will establish an automated record clearing process to take effect in 2023. Misdemeanor convictions will go away after seven years, while felonies will be wiped after ten years.

The aim of Clean Slate, Whitmer said, is to remove obstacles from citizens who may have temporarily run afoul of the law, but who have been continually punished for it in the real world after the fact.

“This is a historic day in Michigan,” Whitmer said. “These bipartisan bills are a game changer for people who are seeking opportunities for employment, housing, and more, and they will help ensure a clean slate for hundreds of thousands of Michiganders,” Whitmer said in a press release Monday. “This is also an opportunity to grow our workforce and expand access to job training and education for so many people. I am proud to sign these bills today alongside Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist and many of the bipartisan leaders who worked on them.”

Lt. Gov Gilchirst concurred. “This anti-poverty, pro-job opportunity Clean Slate legislation will reinvigorate the economic potential of hundreds of thousands of Michiganders whose records have hindered their availability to get a job or secure housing,” he said, “and it will help us grow our workforce This is the right thing to do on behalf of people everywhere who deserve another chance, and will help improve livelihoods.”

Focusing on cannabis, Whitmer added, “During my 2018 campaign for governor I made expungement of marijuana charges one of my key priorities, and I’m so proud today that we can follow through on that goal.”

With legal weed sales consistently breaking records in Michigan, the Clean Slate package is the latest step the state has made toward sane drug policies.

The city of Ann Arbor, for example, recently decriminalized magic mushrooms and other psychedelic plants. Taking a cue from that ruling, Washtenaw County’s soon-to-be prosecutor said he will no longer pursue possession cases for psychedelics. And the Bay Mill Indian Community is in the process of creating a tribal marijuana marketplace completely free of state control.

Famously, that geographic layout of Michigan is shaped like a hand. Pretty soon, it might be impossible to picture it without a joint stuck somewhere between Alpena (the index finger region) and Traverse City (the pinky).  

Mike McPadden
Mike McPadden is the author of "Heavy Metal Movies" and the upcoming "Last American Virgins." He writes about movies, music, and crime in Chicago. Twitter @mcbeardo
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