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California Is Expunging Pot-Related Convictions - Is Nevada Next?

While it’s still illegal to possess marijuana under federal law, more than half the states in the union allow the sale of pot products for medical use.  

Nevada is among eight states and the District of Columbia where adults 21 and older can also purchase the drug for recreational use. 

In California and Washington, where recreational weed is also legal, some jurisdictions are now reducing the extent of - and even erasing - past marijuana-related convictions. 

John Sepulvado with KQED San Franciscotold KNPR's State of Nevada that under the ballot measure passed by voters that legalized recreational marijuana all misdemeanor convictions can be erased and some felony convictions can also be erased.

He said that most pot-connected convictions are misdemeanors for things like possessing a small amount of pot or selling a small amount of pot.

“It offers a pathway for people, to essentially not be held down by rules that don’t apply anymore in this state," he said.

However, people have to meet certain criteria before they can get a conviction expunged and marijuana convictions connected to a more serious crime won't be erased.

And he said, right now, it is up to individual district attorneys to decide whether they're going to contest the efforts by people get their convictions expunged.

He said it can be a complicated process to get the convictions off your record, which means poorer people might struggle to get those convictions expunged. 

Similar changes have been proposed in Nevada, but not yet enacted. 

State Senator Tick Segerblom, who has been a strong supporter of legalized marijuana in the state, said bills have been introduced to do the same thing but they haven't made it into law.

He said under current state law people with misdemeanor or felony convictions can ask to have their records expunged, no matter the crime they committed, but it is difficult.

Felony convictions are especially difficult and people have to wait a certain amount of time before they can petition the court.

"The key is there a way we can focus on the marijuana convictions themselves because obviously why should you punish somebody for doing something that is currently legal," he said.

There is another interesting piece of the law that Segerblom finds ironic. Under Nevada law, someone with a felony conviction for marijuana can't be part of the marijuana industry.

"If you have a felony conviction for marijuana, you can't participate in the marijuana business, even though that would be probably one of the best qualifiers or experience to be in the marijuana business," he said.

Segerbloom said on April 20 - or 4/20, which is a number associated with marijuana, there will be free law clinics at some dispensaries to help people with marijuana convictions get those convictions expunged. 

(Editor's note: KNPR's State of Nevada reached out to the office of Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson to join us on this segment, but our invitation was declined.)

John Sepulvado, host of "The California Report," KQED San Francisco;  Richard "Tick" Segerblom, Senator, Nevada District 3

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Nikole Robinson Carroll is KNPR's Morning Edition host. You can hear her every morning from 5am until 10am on News 889. She also produces segments for KNPR's State of Nevada.