Minnesota's first cannabis expungement clinic helps clean up records

This weekend the first cannabis expungement clinic will be held in Minnesota, aiming to help people who qualify to clean up their records.

Preparations are underway at Green Goods, a medical marijuana dispensary in downtown Minneapolis. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, part of the building will turn into a cannabis expungement clinic. Similar events have been held earlier this year in Arizona and Maryland.

The clinics allow anyone who shows up to sit down and talk with a lawyer working pro-bono or a law student about how to start the expungement process. 

"There are over 53,000 Minnesotans spanning a time of about 20 years, starting in 1998, that were convicted of simple, non-violent cannabis convictions and our hope is to help a number of those tomorrow at our clinic," said Amber Shimpa, CEO of Vireo Health, Inc.

Anyone with a simple, non-violent cannabis misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor conviction is eligible as long they aren’t currently in violation of any probation surrounding the charge.

"There was a couple of jobs that I would have gotten the job if I didn’t have that charge on it," said Carlos Diaz, who attended a clinic in Phoenix in April. "I mean even though it’s a misdemeanor, it’s still shows up as marijuana."

Those familiar with the expungement process say it involves multiple steps through any Minnesota courthouse. It can take months, even longer for people who don’t know where to start.

"With the liberalization of laws, medical marijuana, what might soon be recreational marijuana, it’s imperative people get these things off," said Professor Jon Geffen, the director of Mitchell Hamline School of Law Reentry Clinic.

Geffen says while some people won’t qualify, his students will aim to help as many people as possible. Since 2015 when expungement laws changed, many more people have the opportunity, yet when navigating the process it’s challenging to get everything right.

"Expungement is a great remedy," said Geffen. "It seals it. It doesn't delete it, but it really makes it go away for all those employment and landlord purposes. It's a good remedy."