Those convicted of nonviolent cannabis-related crimes might get a fresh start.

Federal lawmakers have introduced two bills that aim to remove barriers to employment, housing, education, security clearances and child custody faced by millions of people convicted of nonviolent marijuana-related crimes.

The House Judiciary Committee approved the bills, the Clean Slate Act and the Fresh Start Act, in a bipartisan vote Sept. 21.

The Clean Slate Act, HR 2864, would automatically seal the records of many people convicted of nonviolent cannabis-related federal crimes after they’ve served their sentences, NORML reported Sept. 22.

The bill would permit some of these convictions to be revealed on background checks for safety-sensitive jobs, but it also creates penalties for improperly sharing information about sealed convictions.

If passed, it’s estimated that the law could affect more than 70 million Americans.

The Fresh Start Act, HR 5651, would encourage states to purge convictions for cannabis-related crimes by awarding grants to help them implement automatic expungement programs.

According to NORML’s report, an estimated 2.2 million marijuana convictions have been vacated by states. Almost two dozen states, including Colorado, have enacted expungement laws.

Companion legislation has been introduced in the Senate.

It is legislation whose time has come, NORML’s Political Director Morgan Fox said in a statement.

“Beyond the actual penalties incurred under law, a simple marijuana possession conviction can also carry with it a host of lifetime collateral consequences,” Fox said. “In many cases, it is the modern-day equivalent of the ‘Scarlet Letter’ and it can negatively impact a person’s ability to function and thrive in society. At a time when most Americans want to end marijuana prohibition and nearly a majority of people now reside in states where cannabis is legal, it makes no sense to continue punishing adults and robbing them of the opportunity to fulfill their potential for behavior that in many cases is no longer a crime.”

Arkansas pot vote OK’d

It took a decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court to get an adult-use cannabis initiative on the Nov. 8 election ballot in that state.

The court overruled a decision by the state’s Board of Election Commissioners not to certify the proposed constitutional amendment, the Associated Press reported Sept. 22.

Responsible Growth Arkansas submitted more than enough valid signatures to qualify the ballot measure, but the election commissioners blocked it, stating that the ballot title didn’t fully explain the impact of the amendment.

The Supreme Court justices not only overturned the commissioners’ decision but also struck down a 2019 law that empowered them to certify ballot measures.

Arkansas voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana sales in 2016.

The proposed amendment would allow sales of recreational marijuana at state-licensed dispensaries and would legalize possession of up to an ounce of cannabis by people 21 and older.

THC stays on banned list

Athletes who test positive for cannabis use will continue to face penalties including suspension next year.

The World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) executive committee voted Sept. 23 to keep cannabis on the agency’s list of prohibited substances for 2023, the Cannabis Business Times reports.

The question of athletes’ use of marijuana received international attention when U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson tested positive in July 2021 and was barred from competing in the 100-meter dash at the Tokyo Olympics.

WADA classified cannabis as a substance of abuse in Jan. 1, 2021, and violators are subject to a ban of up to four years.

All natural and synthetic cannabis products containing THC and cannabinoids are prohibited, with the exception of cannabidiol (CBD).

In continuing the cannabis ban, WADA’s executive committee adopted the recommendation of the List Expert Advisory Group, a 12-member committee that provides expert advice and guidance, the Business Times reported. Three of its members are from the United States.

The committee’s analysis focused on three criteria established by WADA, two of which must be met for inclusion of a substance on the list:

It has the potential to enhance sport performance.

It represents a health risk to the athlete.

It violates the spirit of sport as defined by the WADA code.

When it comes to cannabis, the agency concluded the third principle was met but found less clarity regarding the other two.

WADA Director General Olivier Niggli noted the diversity of opinions about cannabis around the world and requests for removal of THC from the list but said in a statement that the experts’ review and laws and policies of many countries around the world support keeping cannabis on the list for now.

He noted that WADA is continuing research into THC’s potential for enhancing performance and impact on athletes’ health. 

Jeanne Davant is a graduate of the University of North Carolina. She worked for daily newspapers in D.C., North Carolina and Colorado, and has taught journalism and creative writing. She joined the Colorado Publishing House in 2017.