Minnesota BCA expunges 57K cannabis conviction records

The State of Minnesota has sealed more than 57,000 records of low-level cannabis crimes after the passage of the state's marijuana law.

As part of the marijuana legalization bill that passed last year, the state allowed for low-level marijuana offenses to be cleared off an offender's record. 

Cannabis convictions can sometimes stand in the way of people trying to get licensed for careers like nursing, teaching, and law enforcement.

"You will be able to get an apartment where before you would’ve been denied. For some people, that may be the difference between being homeless and having a place to live," attorney Thomas Gallagher of Gallagher Criminal Defense told FOX 9 on Monday.

"It wouldn’t be fair for us to say you can’t have a job, and you can’t have an apartment, if you were convicted of a crime that is no longer a crime," Gallagher said.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) had planned to complete the process sometime this summer, ahead of a 2025 deadline, saying on Monday it was finished three months ahead of schedule.

"We are pleased to be able to deliver on this legislative priority," BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said. "Minnesotans will see changes to their records immediately and as additional expungements are made in the months and years ahead."

The state will now begin the process of notifying local agencies, so they can expunge their own records. Still ongoing is the process of reviewing felony-level convictions. Under the law, most felony-level convictions are eligible for review by an appointed board.

The Cannabis Expungement Board reviews each case and determines whether the case is eligible for expungement.

"We thought they were going to take until August to do it, and the fact that they’re done with it in May is just fantastic," attorney Carol Moss of Hellmuth and Johnson told FOX 9. "I think it goes to show that it’s a huge value to the state to get this done."

"Even a minor marijuana conviction can really have ongoing devastating effects on people’s lives," Moss said. "[It can] prevent you from getting a job, prevent you from housing, so you can see how one little conviction at the beginning of somebody’s life can have a really detrimental effect on them."

The BCA says that the process is expected to take years since each case needs to be reviewed one by one.