R.I. Judiciary expunges more than 23K cannabis possession charges

THE R.I. JUDICIARY has expunged more than 23,000 cannabis possession charges issued prior to the state's legalization of recreational cannabis, with a second phase of expungements in the works. / PBN PHOTO/MIKE SALERNO

PROVIDENCE – In the first of two phases required under the Rhode Island Cannabis Act, the state judiciary on Thursday announced that it has expunged more than 23,000 cannabis possession charges.

The policy, signed in January, grants automatic expungement of cannabis possession charges to individuals who, prior to Rhode Island’s legalization of recreational cannabis, were charged with criminal convictions for possession at age 18 and older, and with civil violations at age 21 and older.

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The expungements covered 10,650 cases in district court; 9,952 in the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal; and 3,015 in Superior Court.

In a statement, Mavis Nimoh, executive director of the Center for Health and Justice Transformation at Lifespan, commended the judiciary’s attention to the expungement process.

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“Common sense policy on criminal record relief is desperately needed as the state enters into a burgeoning economy that for far too long has penalized its citizens,” Nimoh said.

The judiciary said in its statement that it completed the first phase of the process before its April 30 deadline.

Phase two of the expungement process will cover cases where individuals were charged with marijuana possession as one of multiple charges or counts. The courts expect to complete this process by July 1, though individuals who need an earlier expungement can apply for an expedited process via email or in person at the R.I. Superior Court.

The executive order mandating the expungement, signed by R.I. Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul A. Suttell, was included in the Rhode Island Cannabis Act following demands by groups such as social and economic advocacy organizations Reclaim R.I. and the R.I. Cannabis Justice Coalition.

The order does not extend to other cannabis-related convictions such as selling, manufacturing or delivering cannabis.

Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Voghel@PBN.com.

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