EDITOR'S NOTE: Some quotes in this article have been clarified.
COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Convictions for possession and paraphernalia will begin to be expunged next Thursday under the voter-approved constitutional amendment that legalized recreational marijuana in Missouri.
When Missouri voters approved Amendment 3, they were also agreeing to clear certain marijuana-related offenses on criminal records.
Viets said clearing convictions can help in many aspects of life such as getting jobs and loans.
Misdemeanor marijuana offenses will automatically be expunged. The courts have six months to wipe the records clean.
Felony possession of up to 3 pounds will automatically be expunged as well. However, Amendment 3 gives the courts a bit more time for felonies -- they must be done within 12 months.
Anyone who has been convicted of possession of over 3 pounds must petition the courts.
Viets said a lawyer might help in some cases.
People with felony possession charges over 3 pounds who are in prison, on probation or on parole must finish their punishment before applying for expungement.
Charges related to violence, driving while impaired or selling to a minor will not be eligible for expungement.
Tony Rothert, director of Integrated Advocacy at the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, explained the importance of the expungement provision.
"This is very progressive in terms of the legalization of marijuana," Rothert said. "If not the most progressive. People's lives forever changed after they were caught with marijuana even in a small amount."
Rothert said student loans, financial aid and Pell grants were not accessible after a marijuana conviction.
"Along with the loans revolving around student life, it also limited people from getting loans for houses or cars," Rothert said. "Employers would deny people jobs, and landlords could deny people living arrangements due to their previous charges."
Rothert said it's important to follow up with the courts.
"You must go to the court you were charged in and provide them an updated address," Rothert said. "They will send you a letter notifying you that your conviction has been expunged."