A marijuana plant is displayed in a cannabis shop. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

A marijuana plant is displayed in a cannabis shop. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

House OKs making some marijuana convictions private

Bill expanding court’s decision to limit public web access for minor offenses passes 36-4.

A bill limiting public access to records of marijuana convictions passed the state House by a 36-4 vote on Friday, with supporters stating it will benefit people seeking jobs, housing and other opportunities.

House Bill 28 by Rep. Stanley Wright, an Anchorage Republican, applies to people 21 years or older with convictions involving less than an ounce of marijuana who weren’t charged with any other crimes in the case. Although the Alaska Supreme Court in January announced a rule change removing such convictions from the public court records website, he said his bill ensures those protections exist by law and it also applies to certain state background checks.

During a brief overview on the House floor that attracted no debate, Wright noted Alaskans approved a ballot measure in 2014 legalizing marijuana for people 21 and older.

“However, this left many individuals with previous low-level marijuana convictions facing significant obstacles to employment and housing opportunities,” he said. “With this measure we can provide a crucial second chance to those who would not be considered criminals in the eyes of the law today.”

More than 700 Alaskans are eligible for the confidentiality protections, according to a report by the Alaska Department of Public Safety.

“Let me be clear, this is not a matter of condoning criminal behavior,” Wright said. “It is a matter of recognizing people who have made past mistakes and have already faced the consequences of their actions.”

Exemptions exist for situations such as preventing imminent harm to people or property, and law enforcement purposes such as locating wanted fugitives.

The four dissenting votes were by some of the House’s most conservative Republican members. Opposition was also expressed during the committee process by Mike Coons, a Palmer resident who is president of Concerned Conservatives of Alaska.

“If I was an employer, I want to know if an applicant can follow rules,” he stated in written testimony. “It makes no difference if the law has changed on grass since a conviction.”

Testimony in favor of the bill was offered by Lacy Wilcox, a Juneau resident who is the legislative liaison for the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association.

“It is common knowledge that employers, schools and landlords use CourtView to perform background checks on applicants,” she wrote, referring to the court system’s public website. “In CourtView a simple marijuana possession charge appears similar to this, ‘Misconduct-Controlled Substance 6A.’ Very few understand the drug schedule and most people performing background checks are unlikely to do the next step of discovery to see that VIA is only marijuana. They will simply put the application aside. Therefore, anything that removes even a small barrier to positive life outcomes we will support.”

• Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com

More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of April 15

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Tuesday, April 16, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

An illustration depicts a planned 12-acre education campus located on 42 acres in Juneau owned by the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, which was announced during the opening of its annual tribal assembly Wednesday. (Image courtesy of the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska)(Image courtesy of the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska)
Tribal education campus, cultural immersion park unveiled as 89th annual Tlingit and Haida Assembly opens

State of the Tribe address emphasizes expanding geographical, cultural and economic “footprint.”

In an undated image provided by Ken Hill/National Park Service, Alaska, the headwaters of the Ambler River in the Noatak National Preserve of Alaska, near where a proposed access road would end. The Biden administration is expected to deny permission for a mining company to build a 211-mile industrial road through fragile Alaskan wilderness, handing a victory to environmentalists in an election year when the president wants to underscore his credentials as a climate leader and conservationist. (Ken Hill/National Park Service, Alaska via The New York Times)
Biden’s Interior Department said to reject industrial road through Alaskan wilderness

The Biden administration is expected to deny permission for a mining company… Continue reading

An aerial view of downtown Juneau. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Task force to study additional short-term rental regulations favored by Juneau Assembly members

Operator registration requirement that took effect last year has 79% compliance rate, report states.

Cheer teams for Thunder Mountain High School and Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé perform a joint routine between quarters of a Feb. 24 game between the girls’ basketball teams of both schools. It was possibly the final such local matchup, with all high school students scheduled to be consolidated into JDHS starting during the next school year. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
State OKs school district’s consolidation plan; closed schools cannot reopen for at least seven years

Plans from color-coded moving boxes to adjusting bus routes well underway, district officials say.

Snow falls on the Alaska Capitol and the statue of William Henry Seward on Monday, April 1. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska’s carbon storage bill, once a revenue measure, is now seen as boon for oil and coal

Last year, when Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposed legislation last year to allow… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Monday, April 15, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Juneau’s Recycling Center and Household Hazardous Waste Facility at 5600 Tonsgard Court. (City and Borough of Juneau photo)
Recycleworks stops accepting dropoffs temporarily due to equipment failure

Manager of city facility hopes operations can resume by early next week

Most Read