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Missouri voters to weigh forgiveness for past weed crimes

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri could become the first state to pass a voter-led effort to require courts to automatically forgive past marijuana crimes as part of a constitutional amendment to legalize recreational pot on November’s ballot.

Of the 19 states where recreational marijuana is legal, only seven states require some sort of judicial forgiveness for those punished for committing crimes that have since been decriminalized, according to the advocacy group National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

It was lawmakers in California, Connecticut, Vermont, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island who took action to provide amnesty for past marijuana crimes.

Missouri voters would be the first to spearhead what’s called automatic expungement on their own, said John Payne, the campaign manager for the push to legalize recreational marijuana.

Payne said the goal is to allow people with pot-related convictions to “reclaim their lives.”“This is going to allow those people to live more full and complete lives,” he said. “That also helps society at large, because they’re essentially being somewhat locked out of the economy and productive lives by that burden. We’re going to remove that for them.”

Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature for years resisted addressing marijuana policies, prompting voters to lead a successful effort in 2018 to amend the state constitution to allow medical marijuana.

Thanks to another advocate-led ballot initiative, Missouri voters in November will decide whether to allow those age 21 and older to buy and grow weed for personal consumption and whether to grant automatic expungement to past marijuana-related crimes.

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