With recreational marijuana now legal in Maine, Maine's government must ask about what to do to those who were convicted of crimes associated with marijuana possession in the past. This year, there is pending legislation that, if passed, would allow either expunging (removing) records of past marijuana convictions, or allow those convictions to be sealed from public view, visible only to law enforcement. Criminal convictions from marijuana possession are deceptively complex thanks to the split between state and federal law, and there are currently very few ways to protect yourself once you are convicted.
Maine currently allows possession of recreational marijuana for those who are twenty-one years or older. Mainers are legally allowed to possess up to two and half ounces of marijuana. If someone possesses more than this, up to eight ounces over the limit, they face a Class E criminal conviction, facing up to six months in jail and a $1,000.00 fine. Possessing over a pound of marijuana in excess of two and a half ounces is a felony, with significant penalties if you are convicted. Most drug related offenses also carry a mandatory minimum four hundred dollar fine for each drug offense you are convicted of. Anyone between eighteen and twenty-one who possesses any amount of marijuana will receive a civil violation, and may have to pay a fine. If they possess more than two and a half ounces, they will face criminal consequences. Anyone who is convicted of a drug related offense would face consequences outside of what the Court imposes. For people looking to go to school, or who are in school, a drug conviction will prohibit you from receiving any federal funding, which could severely limit your chances of completing school. While recreational marijuana is legal in Maine, its legality is limited in scope to a certain amount of marijuana and has an age restriction.
As it stands in Maine, there are only two ways to seal a criminal conviction for possession of marijuana so it does not reach the public eye. There is no current way to remove crimes off of your record, unless the pending law allowing it passes. The first method only works if you were convicted of a Class E misdemeanor possession, and only if you were convicted when you were eighteen to twenty-one years old. You cannot have any other criminal convictions on your record, and nothing can be pending. Lastly, your petition to seal the conviction must be made four years after everything in your sentence is completed, including jail time or fine payment. This statute is set to expire in October of this year, and if no other pending legislation is approved, this method may soon disappear.
The last way to remove a marijuana conviction from your record is through a pardon from the governor. The Governor's office has a lengthy, discretionary process that, if granted, may seal your conviction for marijuana possession and absolve you of any consequences as a result. The Governor will not grant a pardon if the sole reason is to rectify errors in the judicial system, or for the purpose to carry a firearm. This area gets tricky, because while a conviction for marijuana possession does not carry any state firearm bans, it may require a federal ban on possessing firearms and ammunition. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3) states that anyone who is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance is prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition. While marijuana may be legal in Maine, possessing marijuana is still a federal crime. Marijuana is a controlled substance in the eyes of the federal government, which means if you are using it unlawfully (in the federal sense), or if you are addicted to a drug, you may not possess firearms anywhere in the country. This means that if you are asking for a pardon of a drug possession crime because you want to possess firearms again, your pardon request may be denied on that reason alone.
The State Legislature will soon decide whether to pass this law to expunge criminal records for marijuana convictions, and will decide the future of past marijuana crimes. The best solution to avoid criminal consequences is to get ahead of any charge by hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you are charged with any marijuana or drug crimes, contact the attorneys of WTB Law immediately for a consultation.