NEWARK, N.J. (PIX11) — It has been more than two years since residents of New Jersey overwhelmingly voted to legalize recreational marijuana.
However, lagging behind is the process of wiping out all the low-level cannabis convictions, which continue to make life difficult particularly in communities of color.
Edward Ramirez from Jersey City came looking for help with this problem to an “expungement clinic” in Newark because he was having trouble getting a government job with two low-level marijuana possession convictions from a few years ago.
“I figured I’d come on down here and get them off the record and move on with my life,” Ramirez said.
That’s exactly what lawyers from the Brach Eichler Group were able to do online and on the spot for Ramirez and many others Friday.
With marijuana now legal in New Jersey, certain minor possession records were supposed to be automatically expunged beginning in July of 2021. However, that does not necessarily happen, according to attorney Riz Dagli.
“You have to understand you’re talking about multiple counties and many municipalities,” Dagli said. “It’s a large bureaucracy, which takes a long time to get these things expunged. Some may have been expunged, or some may fall through the cracks.”
Jesse Marie Villars knows the impact of those convictions all too well.
“As someone has been through the expungement process and knows what it’s like to have career and educational opportunities taken away from me, it’s really inspiring to be here today,” she said.
Her organization Cannabis Equity Employment is among those sponsoring the clinic, the second such time Brendon Robinson’s group 420NJEvents has organized it.
“We have seen there are just so many people still suffering from the war on drugs, whether it’s folks trying to get jobs or housing,” Robinson said. “We had a gentleman come last time who could not coach his son’s little league football team because of a cannabis record from 15 years ago. We are living in a state now where just in the third quarter of last year we did $137 million in cannabis sales, and there are people still people suffering from this plant.”