In 2012, Colorado became one of the first two states to legalize the recreational use of cannabis following the passage of Amendment 64 and Initiative 5021. Since then, people have started to wonder if previous marijuana convictions can be sealed from their records.
It’s a logical question, especially because when people who have a history of marijuana conviction apply for jobs, potential employers will to see drug charges on a criminal background check — even though it’s now completely legal.
So, is there a way to seal past marijuana convictions?
Forget about Sealing a DUI/DWAI Conviction
DWAI, or “driving while ability impaired,” is treated much the same way as a DUI in Colorado. If you plead guilty to a DUI or a DWAI and are convicted, that will be on your permanent record; there is almost no way to remove that charge. This is true regardless of whether the conviction is related to alcohol, marijuana use, or other drug use. Read more deeply on this subject in my previous blog post, Can I Hide My DUI Conviction from a Potential Employer? as I discuss some strategies for mitigating the damage a DUI or DWAI conviction could do to your employability.
Now, please remember that I am talking exclusively about Colorado. Not all states have two levels of drinking and driving offenses, and I have been told that if you are convicted of a DWAI in one state, then move to another State that doesn’t recognize DWAI, your situation may be altered in your favor. However, I can only speak with certainty about the laws in Colorado; please consult a local attorney if you are moving to or reside in another state.
Sealing Drug Charges
The state recognizes that when it comes to drugs, many people experience drug addiction at one period in life, but make efforts to sober up. People shouldn’t be penalized in the job market for a past mistake that they have overcome — especially if the offense, had it happened in 2020, wouldn’t be an offense at all, such as possession of marijuana.
As a result of this, there are many different levels of drug laws and the nuances of sealing drug charges that have to do with how serious the charge is (possession vs. manufacture, etc.), how long ago the charge occurred (ten years ago vs. ten months ago will be viewed differently by the judge), and how many convictions you have on your record.
All that said, while it may seem like there should be one, easy-to-understand, blanket rule about sealing drug charges, there isn’t. This is partly because the legislature has to walk a fine line between making sure that people who have turned things around are able to find employment, and also making sure that serious offenses aren’t hidden from the public. Most DA’s do not like the idea of sealing past criminal records because they believe it is lying to the public. Some counties, including Boulder, are allowing marijuana convictions where the same conduct would no longer be a crime to be sealed immediately.
Sealing is Complicated
Sealing past drug records has become very complicated. It’s all about timing, severity of the charge, and additional convictions. Some levels of drug offenses can only be sealed after five years… others require ten years… and it goes on. And of course, it may also depend on whether the offense is something that is now considered legal.
As I always say, every case is different and deserves thoughtful review. If you are uncertain about whether your case can be sealed, call us at 303-449-1873 to set up a complimentary consultation.