Montpelier cannabis shop holding monthly expungement clinics

Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 11:22 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Though the state dropped many cannabis-related criminal convictions in 2021, some people are still trying to clear their records.

Attorney and co-owner of Gram Central, Amanda Kitchen, says hosting monthly expungement clinics is in line with their social justice mission. Criminal convictions of any kind can be life-altering. Kitchen says if there’s any chance to get people a fresh start, they want to help.

Private attorney Sam Dworkin also helps advise at the clinics. “If someone has a conviction on their record it could impact how they view themselves as part of the community,” Dworkin explained. “A whole lot of misdemeanor and lower level possession crimes have been decriminalized in Vermont and that possession of a small amount of marijuana is no longer a crime.”

Any type of criminal conviction can keep people from driving, employment, and certain forms of government assistance. Often, people can get minor offenses and even some felonies expunged, giving them a fresh start. Expungement is only possible after a short period of demonstrated good behavior.

However, the expungement process can be complicated once it’s available. “One thing that was really important to me was to boost this idea of social justice,” Kitchen said. She says removing the stigmas and barriers around cannabis convictions is important to societal and individual well-being.

These expungement clinics walk people through the process by directing them to the proper paperwork and helping them find their criminal history without paying a fee. Additionally, they offer people help to clear their records of things beyond cannabis convictions.

“At this point, we felt like it was just more equitable to open the process up to anyone that had a conviction that could be expunged,” Kitchen said.

While there was a low turnout at the December expungement clinic, there will be other opportunities. They plan to host them on the second Tuesday of every month, with the next one being on Jan. 10.

“This is not a one-time thing,” Dworkin said. “If they have charges that they may be eligible to expunge or seal, I encourage them to reach out.”

If you don’t want to wait for the next clinic, Dworkin says Vermont Law Help’s website can be a helpful resource for expungement information.