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Thousands qualify for Denver's marijuana conviction expungement program; few apply

Posted at 9:31 AM, Oct 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-08 15:49:33-04

DENVER — A new report from Denver’s Department of Excise and Licenses found thousands of people are eligible for low-level marijuana conviction expungements, but very few have had their records cleared.

Back in January, Denver launched the Turn Over a New Leaf Program to create a streamlined process for those wanting to have their marijuana convictions expunged.

The city held five free clinics where free legal advice was provided, and legal fees were waived.

“We’ve also been going out into the jails and explaining the program, offering the program and helping to walk people through the online application process,” said Denver Department of Excise and Licenses Director Ashley Kilroy.

The new report found up to 12,000 low-level marijuana convictions within Denver’s jurisdiction.

But since January, just 441 people have applied to have their records expunged.

79 applicants were eligible for expungement but so far, just 48 cases have been vacated, dismissed, or ordered sealed.

“We looked at what the barriers were; we tried to address as many barriers as we could,” Kilroy said.

Kilroy said some applicants had cases that were outside of Denver’s jurisdiction and some cases were not considered “low level” convictions.

The other challenge city leaders said they face is Colorado law, which does not allow for automatic expungements.

Kilroy said the city must address each conviction on a case-by-case basis, which can get expensive.

So far, the city has spent $26,500 on staffing expungement clinics.

“Having low-level marijuana convictions can have wide ramifications throughout an individual’s life. It can negatively impact employment opportunities, educational opportunities, access to housing, other government benefits," Kilroy said.

Kilroy said they do have an online portal for those who are interested in participating in the program.

Kilroy said they hope that through community partnerships they will be able to reach more people.