Millions of Americans across the country with cannabis-related offenses on their records may soon have the offenses expunged after the largest professional association of physicians in the United States passed a resolution in favor of expunging marijuana-related offenses.
Last week, the American Medical Association (AMA) announced that it had passed a measure that would require states that have either decriminalized or legalized cannabis to expunge marijuana-related arrests and convictions that are now considered legal. The association made this announcement at its annual House Delegates meeting in Chicago, stating that it had already formally adopted this change in policy.
A statement from the AMA stated that the policy change was meant to bring fairness and equity to cannabis reform. At least 18 states have legalized recreational cannabis while 37 states have launched medical cannabis markets, the association noted. However, despite this, many people living in these states still have marijuana-related offenses related to activities that are now legal on their records. And as every American knows, having a criminal record in the U.S. has a major impact on your life, making it nigh impossible to get employment and housing, and even receive custody of your children, among other things.
AMA trustee Dr. Scott Ferguson noted that such criminal records keep many from accessing housing, education, employment, and loans. It also keeps young people from pursuing careers such as medicine, he added. He concluded that it is extremely unfair to penalize individuals and cripple them for life because of actions that have now been decriminalized or legalized.
The organization asked that the entire expungement process be automated to shorten what is a typically “lengthy and expensive” process. Automation would allow people to clear their records of cannabis-related offenses without having to go through tons of bureaucracy or pay a variety of fees.
On top of expunging records, the AMA’s new policy calls for a blanket ban on probation parole, or court-ordered supervision that involves marijuana offenses. The AMA explained that cannabis prohibition laws have never been enforced equally, with Black communities taking the brunt of cannabis arrests and convictions despite Whites showing similar cannabis use rates.
The organization mentioned data that shows Black people are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for consuming cannabis even though research shows that Black and White people consume cannabis at the same rates.
However, the organization has stated that although it is behind expungement, it does not support further legalization. AMA cited possible health ramifications, increased traffic deaths, ER visits and marijuana-related hospitalizations as reasons for its opposition to legalization.
Concerns about marijuana notwithstanding, the American Medical Association is a great addition to the voices calling for cannabis policy changes at the federal level. The entire marijuana industry, including American Cannabis Partners, would be pleased if more professional bodies added their voices to the chorus calling for reform.
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