Minnesota will likely legalize recreational marijuana in the very near future, as the state House and Senate approved different versions of the bill in April 2023. This leaves only reconciliation of differences between these versions and the Governor’s signature left to make the bill Minnesota law. One major component of the bill is it provides for the automatic expungement, the sealing of records, for low-level cannabis charges and convictions.
Under the bill, possession misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors would automatically be expunged so long as the offense was nonviolent, including non-conviction records such as arrests and dismissed charges. Because this is automatic, people with these records would not have to apply for expungement themselves. Rather, the expungement responsibility will fall on the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) to identify all individuals eligible and grant the automatic expungements. The Bureau would then have 60 days to seal the records and notify all relevant law enforcement agencies to seal their versions of the records as well.
For felony marijuana records, there will not be automatic expungement. However, a new Cannabis Expungement Board will meet monthly to review felony records and determine if they are eligible for expungement. Again, to be eligible, the felony must be for possession and nonviolent in nature. This bill requires that this work be completed by June 20, 2028.
How will you know if your record was expunged? For automatic expungements, the bill says that the BCA shall make a reasonable and good faith effort to notify people whose records qualify that notice is being sent to the judicial branch to seal their record. For felonies, this will be done by the Cannabis Expungement Board instead, and in both cases the court administrator will send a letter to the person’s last known address to let them know which agencies and jurisdictions (like law enforcement and other courts) the order was sent to.
This process would impact a large number of Minnesotans. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension estimated that approximately 66,000 people with misdemeanor marijuana records in Minnesota are eligible for automatic expungement. This figure includes arrests, dropped charges, and records where a case was won or dismissed. Additionally, 9,818 of those people have actual convictions eligible for expungement. As for felony marijuana records, 230,000 records 83,909 of which are convictions, will be eligible for review by the Cannabis Expungement Board.