In a decision that attorneys say could open the door to other class-action lawsuits, a petition has been approved to seal the criminal records of 350 people with marijuana misdemeanors in Manhattan.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. worked with nonprofit and pro-bono lawyers from groups like the Legal Aid Society to make the mass record sealing a reality. The move was set into motion by a change to New York’s Raise the Age Act. That 2017 legislation stated that people with two or less nonviolent offenses would be eligible to have their records sealed after a decade if they had no new offenses on their record.
But as good as that provision sounded, it has been difficult for individuals to access on their own. 1,200 people have managed to get their records wiped clean, out of the estimated 600,000 who are eligible for the program. That’s due to barriers that stand in the way of average citizens, who may not be aware of the policy change, or have issues navigating the bureaucracy that is obligatory to claim the record sealing.
New York has taken a singular approach to marijuana policy over the past year, a period that began with