In less than three months, New Jersey has expunged more pot-related criminal charges than almost any other state.
The New Jersey Judiciary announced this week that the Garden State has vacated or dismissed over 362,000 marijuana and hashish cases since the beginning of July. Now that these cases are expunged, they will not show up on court records, and former offenders will not have to report these offenses on job, housing, or college admission applications. Additionally, another 1,200 people have been released from probation for pot-related arrests.
“Cases with offenses eligible for expungement include certain marijuana or hashish charges alone or in combination with the following: possession of drug paraphernalia; use or being under the influence of a controlled, dangerous substance; and failure to make lawful disposition of a controlled, dangerous substance,” the Judiciary explained in a statement.
Governor Phil Murphy signed the expungement bill into law back in February, along with two other bills that decriminalized possession of up to six ounces of weed and established regulations for the state's new adult-use industry. These new laws, which took effect on July 1, required the state courts to automatically identify and expunge all minor cannabis-related criminal cases.
Just two weeks after the law took effect, the state had already vacated or dismissed almost 88,000 current or former weed cases. At the time, the Judiciary estimated that around 360,000 people were eligible to have their charges automatically expunged, so it seems like this stage of the process is already complete. Individuals whose cases have been expunged can also request an official certificate stating that their charges have been cleared.
There may be as many as 150,000 more people who are eligible to have their records cleared, but were not included in the automatic expungement process. Anyone whose case is eligible, but has not been expunged already, can file a motion with the court to have their records cleared. The Judiciary will launch an awareness campaign later this month to provide information on how to follow through with this process.
“362,000 marijuana cases already expunged. Thousands more to come,” Gov. Murphy tweeted. “With our new cannabis laws, we are turning the page on the failed War on Drugs and ensuring social justice here in New Jersey.”
Seven US states have now passed laws requiring courts to automatically identify and expunge former cannabis cases, but New Jersey's new law has been one of the most effective and expedient yet. In under three months, the Garden State has already cleared more criminal records than any state other than Illinois, which has expunged nearly half a million cases. California, which passed its expungement law back in 2018, has only managed to clear 200,000 pot cases, and New York's new weed laws haven't even cleared 100,000 cases yet.