Michigan Senator Jeff Irwin has introduced a bill that seeks to automatically expunge the criminal records held by more than 235,000 people for possession of marijuana.

Voters decided to legalize recreational cannabis use last year and the first adult-use dispensaries are set to open in 2020. The state has always been relatively progressive when it comes to acceptance of marijuana, and it legalized medicinal use back in 2008.

Yet many Michiganders struggle to find jobs, housing and education providers as a result of past convictions for minor possession of marijuana. Irwin is seeking to rectify this situation.

“Cannabis is now legal in Michigan and petty offenses in the past should be no barrier to getting back to work or school,” he said.

He added that expungement needs to be automatic, as many of the people with criminal records cannot afford an attorney or the legal fees associated with an application.

Irwin’s proposed law, Senate Bill 416, also aims to allow anyone convicted of growing or possessing cannabis with intent to distribute to apply for their records to wiped out, even if they exceed the current limit of more than two misdemeanours or one felony.

He said his bill would allow Michigan residents to reclaim the opportunities that were unjustly taken from them during the “unsuccessful prohibition of marijuana”.

Expungement bills and decriminalization initiatives are spreading like wildfire across the country, as attitudes continue to grow increasingly liberal towards marijuana use.

In Ohio, the city council of Columbus is mulling over legislation that would reduce penalties for cannabis possession. The proposed law would see anyone caught with up to 100g fined just $10 and anyone found with between 100g and 200g would receive a $25 fine, while it would ensure that there is no possibility of jail time for anyone in possession of more than 200g.

That would run counter to Ohio state law, but it would follow in the footsteps of Cincinnati, where the council voted in favour of a decriminalization bill last month.

In Arkansas, the city council of Fayetteville affirmed that misdemeanour cases surrounding marijuana use can now be dismissed. Last week Hawaii became the 26th state to either legalize or decriminalize adult-use marijuana when it passed legislation ensuring that possession of up to 3g cannot be punished with jail time.

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