The Alaska House marked 4/20 with a vote to seal the records of about 8,500 Alaskans convicted of low-level, cannabis-related crimes, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
House Bill 246, sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, passed April 20 in a 30-8 vote, the news outlet reported.
The Senate is considering a companion bill from Sen. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
The legislation aims to combat prejudice against Alaskans who committed nonviolent, cannabis-related crimes before 2014, when voters approved an adult-use cannabis legalization measure, the news outlet reported.
The bill would seal convictions that involve less than an ounce of cannabis and no other criminal charges, according to The Center Square.
Kreiss-Tomkins and others arguing in support of the bill have said that Alaskans should not be denied employment or housing due to past cannabis-related convictions.
H.B. 246 would keep the convictions on file but make them inaccessible on CourtView and APSIN, Alaska’s criminal records database.
The legislation would also lower the penalty for cannabis possession by Alaskans ages 18 to 20 from a misdemeanor to a violation that mirrors that for underage alcohol possession, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
“It’s been eight years since Alaskans voted to legalize marijuana and our marijuana laws need to reflect our new normal,” said Kreiss-Tomkins said, according to The Center Square. “I’m especially pleased that we are lowering the class of offense for 18-20-year-old underage possession of marijuana. It’s crazy that a 20-year-old Alaskan—who is also old enough for military service and to go to war—could be incarcerated for up to 90 days for simple possession of pot.”
The House and Senate versions of the legislation now need to be unified before the end of Alaska’s legislative session in order to land on Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s desk.
Dunleavy signaled his support for the legislation April 20 in a tweet, saying, “I support lawmakers’ work to clear criminal records of Alaskans with low-level marijuana offenses. Alaskans should not be met with barriers for conduct that is no longer a crime under state law."