A little over 5 years ago, Michigan's lawmakers and Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the recreational use of marijuana into Michigan law. This would mean that adults over the age of 21 would be able to carry and use marijuana under guidelines that are similar to those surrounding alcohol use and carry. This would prove to be a turning tide in the state as many different opinions formed. Since then, there have been far fewer arrests made for marijuana possession than in previous years which should have been expected.

After the law passed there was a large number of dispensaries that opened their doors to the recreational public, which in turn took business from some drug dealers. Also, arresting someone on distribution or possession charges is much harder if they are within the legal carrying limit. With that being said there are still thousands of inmates in Michigan prisons and a handful on marijuana possession charges, the question is should they be pardoned and released hence the new laws?

The idea comes as a historic event is set to take place this week, but not here in Michigan. The Governor of Maryland is expected to sign a pardon for over 175,000 convictions. Most of these charges are misdemeanor marijuana possession charges and inmates have been serving time for years. Although they are pardoning these individuals, the state of Maryland is not planning to release them back to the public at this moment.

It doesn't come as a huge surprise that we have seen a state pardon these charges as the Biden Administration, the US Department of Justice, and the US Food and Drug Administration have shown support in the rescheduling of marijuana to Schedule III. The reclassification, if it occurs, would have marijuana looked at in the eyes of drugs like Tylenol with codeine and ketamine.

Although they haven't quite made it as far as pardoning these individuals yet they have made strides in the state toward helping make life easier for these individuals post-conviction. In Michigan, Governor Whitmer championed and signed the Clean Slate law, which not only reduces the time someone must wait to seek an expungement for a misdemeanor marijuana conviction from 5 years to 3 years but also limits the discretion of the court to deny an expungement in these cases.

The law also created the first “automatic” expungement process in Michigan’s history, meaning individuals are no longer required to take action to receive an expungement, as eligible convictions start being removed from the criminal record between 7 and 10 years after the completion of the sentence if there are no additional convictions.  Since launching in 2023, it is estimated that over 280,000 Michigan residents have had their criminal histories cleared, and hundreds of thousands more have had parts of their criminal histories expunged by this automatic system

Michigan hasn't even hinted at doing something similar but I wouldn't be surprised if it came up in conversation soon. Michigan is one of the more progressive states in America as the lawmakers alongside Governor Whitmer care about treating their residents the best way possible. We may see pardons and maybe even released individuals if Michigan takes this route.

How do you feel about a pardon for low-level marijuana possession and drug paraphernalia possession charges? Do you think Michigan should pardon them and still have them serve the rest of their sentence? Should Michigan pardon them and release them back to the public to be contributing members of society?

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Gallery Credit: Tommy McNeill

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