Dozens of people signed up for a free clinic in Portland Saturday that offered to help clear marijuana convictions from their records.
Oregon law allows some people who’ve been convicted of drug crimes to have their criminal records sealed and set aside, if at least three years have gone by since the conviction. The courts are able to consider Oregon’s new laws legalizing recreational marijuana and reclassification of many marijuana-related offenses.
Jordan Visarraga was a senior at Willamette High School when he was charged with delivery of marijuana, a felony at the time.
“Honestly, it built this insecurity that’s followed me for four years,” he said.
Now Visarraga is an undergraduate student at Portland State. He’s studying social work and hopes to go on to get a master’s degree. But his conviction means he isn’t sure he’ll have the career he wants.
“Because I’m a felon I can’t be a social worker,” he said. “I was going to graduate with something I couldn’t even do, but it was for me to finish, and show people that I can get a college degree.”
Visarraga was among 30 people who signed up for the expungement clinic. The Minority Cannabis Business Association and Marley Naturals, a cannabis brand, organized the event and covered legal costs for people who signed up.
“If we don’t care about some of these social justice issues that are affecting our community of cannabis users, than we’re not going to see the cannabis business get to where it can one day,” said Jesce Horton, chair of the Minority Cannabis Business Association.
The ACLU has found that people of color are roughly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana use as white people, though the rates of marijuana use are comparable between the two groups.