Olmsted County Attorney worries state is unprepared to handle influx of marijuana expungements

Olmsted County attorney weighs in on marijuana expungements.
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 5:40 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Minnesota lawmakers are working to implement some new laws surrounding marijuana after Governor Tim Walz signed the Cannabis Bill into law Tuesday.

“We’ve got 50 years of folks that we’ve been arresting and getting records on them. It’s not going to unwind immediately, but we feel a sense of urgency around that. We’ll start that process this summer and get folks moving on that and get folks’ records cleared up,” Gov. Walz said.

One portion of the law makes it so some Minnesotans with prior marijuana convictions can get their records expunged.

Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem says this has been on his office’s radar since the beginning of the session. While his office handles expungements for all sorts of convictions daily, he expects there to be massive influx in petitions. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension estimates 66,000 Minnesotans are eligible for automatic expungement, and that doesn’t include the others with marijuana convictions whose records will be sent to the state board for review.

“The scope of the number of people that would be eligible is potentially huge,” Ostrem said.

The Olmsted County Attorney’s Office will plan a unique role in this process considering they’ll have to both process the expungement and also seal the records.

“It’s gotta come through our office. It’s gotta go through the courts here. It’s got to go through law enforcement, because we all carry these records,” Ostrem said.

Ostrem says he’s not sure how many convictions are eligible for expungement in the county, because the drug charges are not specified under the type of drug.

“All felony fifth degree drug charges are coded the same. Doesn’t matter whether it’s heroin, fentanyl, meth or marijuana,” he said.

And the timeline on this is still up the air.

“It could take months, maybe into years for them to truly get through all of this,” Ostrem said.

The Attorney’s Office works on expungements every day, and Ostrem says it may be easier to go through your county versus the newly created state cannabis board.

“I just foresee the possibility an individual in Olmsted County might say it’s quicker just to file a normal petition and have it go through the normal way,” Ostrem said.

And with no one appointed to the board as of yet, Ostrem isn’t sure the state is prepared to take this on.

“I’ve been worried for a while about the resources it will take. There are timelines on these things. Just hard to say what the volume is going to be,” he said.

The bill requires all expungement work to be completed by June 30, 2028.