Fargo legislator working on 'expungement,' marijuana decriminalization bills

Nov 2, 2018

The issue of “expungement” – that is, erasing the arrest and or conviction of someone who committed a crime – has become an issue in the campaign to legalize recreational marijuana.

The measure would require the expungement of all marijuana-related convictions.

At the same time, a Fargo legislator is working on an expungement bill.

"The parameters we have looked at would expunge the records of non-violent, non-sex offenders who have had a period of time where they've been out of trouble with the judicial system," said Rep. Shannon Roers-Jones (R-Fargo). "For misdemeanors, it would be a period of three years, and for felonies it would be a period of five years."

Roers-Jones says those people would have to take a pro-active step.

"They would have to file with the court system to have those records sealed," Roers-Jones said.

Roers-Jones said she learned while serving on the Justice Reinvestment Committee that the state has tightened up a number of criminal penalties over the years, and that’s having a negative effect on people who are ready to rehabilitate their lives.

"So many of these decisions are made by young people before their brains are fully developed," Roers-Jones said. "We want to give them the opportunity to clean up the poor choices they made in the past."

Roers-Jones said it would not affect federal charges.

Roers-Jones said she’s also working on a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. She said she would introduce it if Measure 3 fails on the November ballot.

"There are people who want to see the criminal penalties for small quantities to go away," Roers-Jones said. "But they aren't willing to vote for Measure 3."

Roers-Jones said that's because the ballot measure allows marijuana to be sold anywhere, to anyone, in any quantities. She said her bill is now a work-in-progress.

"Where we're at right now, is quantities under an ounce, and less than six plants in a person's possession, would be a fine," Roers-Jones said. "It would not be an infraction. But we are still open to other modifications."

Roers-Jones said she's working with Fargo attorney Mark Friese on both measures.

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