- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Democratic lawmaker is expected to introduce Tuesday a bill in the House to expunge federal marijuana-related convictions, signaling the start of the congressman’s latest effort to reform drug laws on a nationwide scale.

In a statement, Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon said passage of the Clean Slate for Marijuana Offenses Act of 2015 would pave the way for individuals who have been federally charged with marijuana offenses to have those counts expunged from their records in the event that the conduct in question is allowable under state law, where applicable.

“People who were caught up in the federal criminal justice system for a marijuana offense that was legal under state law at the time should not carry around a drug record,” Mr. Blumenauer said. “I support legalizing marijuana at the federal level to put a stop to any state-federal conflicts once and for all, but it is also important that we create pathways for expungement for those who should never have been charged in the first place.”

While Oregon, Alaska, Colorado and Washington state have all enacted legislation in recent years that largely decriminalizes the growing of marijuana, albeit with some restrictions, federal authorities still consider it a Schedule I narcotic.

As a result, the current climate with respect to marijuana use has made it possible so that a Portlander in possession of an amount of pot that’s small enough to be permitted by state law can still end up being pursued with federally-sanctioned penalties, regardless of existing local legislation.

“Over 1,100 people over the past 10 years were arrested for things that actually are now legal under state law,” the congressman told Portland’s KOIN News on Monday.

“Having a mechanism to expunge that I think is important for the federal government to be a partner with these states and not have people trapped in that legal limbo,” he told KATU News.

Oregon became the first state in the U.S. to decriminalize personal possession of small amounts of marijuana in 1973, and Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize pot for recreational use among adults in 2012.

Oregon, Alaska and D.C. all passed similar pot-friendly laws in 2014, and the results of a Pew Research Center survey published in April suggested that 53 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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