The Alaska Supreme Court will soon take action to help past offenders with cannabis convictions.
The Court intends to remove the records of individuals with low-level marijuana offenses. According to the order signed by Supreme Court justices, they will remove the records of people with qualifying past marijuana offenses from Courtview on May 1. Courtview is an online database that contains the state’s court cases. This action could help many Alaskan residents to have increased opportunities for employment.
This decision follows several other states that have also chosen to expunge some cannabis-related convictions. Like these states, the expungement comes after the states legalized marijuana. However, the order does not apply to convictions where the individual was under 21 or possessed more than one ounce of cannabis.
Previous legislative attempts to remove cannabis convictions from Courtview have proven unsuccessful. For example, legislatures attempted this change last year. The bill would have concealed cannabis records in Courtview and from criminal background searches. This bill passed the Alaska House of Representatives by a vote of 30-8. However, it failed to pass in the Alaska State Senate before the 2022 legislative session ended.
Another bill to keep cannabis convictions from appearing on Courtview was pre-filed for the 2023 legislative session. The 2023 legislative session also saw a pre-filed bill to keep cannabis convictions from appearing on Courtview. However, the Supreme Court decision accomplished what this legislation intended. Unfortunately, the records remain available at courthouses and in formal background checks.
The Court does not maintain the state’s official criminal records. Instead, the Alaska Department of Public Safety maintains these records. Though the general public will not have easy access to the information, some state representatives expressed interest in providing more protections to cannabis users in another bill. More comprehensive legislation could prevent cannabis convictions from appearing on criminal background checks.
In the past, the Alaskan Supreme Court has made decisions to protect the rights of individuals who use cannabis. For example, the Court decided to protect the right to possess and use small amounts of cannabis in people’s private residences in 1975. This decision came as a reaffirmation of the right to privacy, which Alaska’s constitution guarantees. In addition, this decision legalized the personal use of cannabis.
For now, the legislation to provide more protections to cannabis users in Alaska has an uncertain future. As such, past cannabis convictions will still appear on background checks. Regardless of its passing, employers should consider whether the convictions relate to the position. The best way to conduct reliable and accurate background checks is by working with a trustworthy background screening company. The right partner will ensure you find the right people who meet your needs.
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