People with convictions for minor cannabis offenses and other low-level crimes will have access to services to help them clear their records at free events scheduled to take place across the nation later this month. More than 40 events designed to provide legal aid and related services have been planned in over 30 cities during National Expungement Week (N.E.W.), taking place September 19 through 26.
National Expungement Week began in 2018 as a way to offer legal aid to those adversely affected by the War on Drugs and the racial disparity prevalent in the enforcement of the nation’s drug laws. Today, the group’s work continues year-round in addition to the N.E.W. events scheduled annually, providing wrap-around services to those with a criminal record. Although restrictions on in-person events have been put in place in many places because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year will feature inaugural events in Kentucky, Missouri, and Florida.
Seven Expungement Clinics Coming To Los Angeles
In Los Angeles, N.E.W. events are being powered by a number of community organizations and partners, including The Social Impact Center, Social Equity LA, and the TransLatin@ Coalition. Felicia Carbajal, the executive director of The Social Impact Center, explained how having a criminal record for even a minor offense can affect one’s life.
“The impact of having a criminal record is far greater than most would assume, especially after the debt has been paid to society,” Carbajal said in an email to High Times. “Opportunities for housing, education assistance, and jobs are often the first of 48,000 barriers facing those with a record, preventing these individuals from re-entering society safely and creating a stable life – for themselves and their families. An important barrier to note is the loss of the right to vote. There are 77 million Americans that currently hold a criminal record whose voices are simply not being heard.”
“N.E.W. tackles [the problem] head-on by providing access to legal relief, fee waivers, and empathetic leaders, often with the same lived experience, working to advance access to opportunities for Black and Brown communities,” she continued. “Expungement Week might only be seven days, but the work is done all year round to continue to support and uplift marginalized members of our community.”
Los Angeles N.E.W. events will include free clinics held at seven locations throughout L.A. County on Tuesday, September 22nd and Friday, September 25th. At each clinic, people will have access to free legal aid as well as voter registration resources, food distribution, school supply giveaways, and information on employment opportunities. Registration for these clinics is currently open and ends on Friday, September 11th.
Los Angeles County N.E.W. Event Dates And Locations
- Van Nuys/North Hills (9/25)
- Pacoima (9/22)
- South Central Los Angeles (9/22 and 9/25)
- South LA/Watts (9/22 and 9/25)
- Koreatown (9/22)
- Compton (TBD)
Cannabis testing laboratory CannaSafe is one of this year’s sponsors and has offered its headquarters in LA to host an expungement clinic. In addition, N.E.W has also partnered with Food Forward to distribute 6 tons of food to those in need, and CannaSafe will be hosting a pop-up event at their headquarters to distribute the food. Antonio Frazier, the president of CannaSafe, noted why it is important for licensed cannabis firms to support restorative justice initiatives.
“CannaSafe supports expungement and reentry to the workforce because no licensee would be here without the resilience of the traditional market,” he said in an email to High Times. “Our CEO went through the expungement process and now we want to make sure others understand the tools available for them to do the same. National Expungement Week does just that, and we feel obligated to support efforts rooted in community repair. The traditional market is still roaring because we aren’t creating enough proper entry points for conversion.”
A Nationwide Effort
Because of the ongoing pandemic, N.E.W. organizers across the country are being presented with unique challenges, including the continued closure of courts in some jurisdictions. As a result, a number of virtual events have been added to the in-person workshops and clinics that offer legal aid and other services to individuals returning to their communities.
Nationally, N.E.W. is in the middle of a $50,000 fundraiser through the Show Your Love campaign to help support the work that the team does all year long. The campaign seeks either individual donations or support via The Marketplace, where a percentage of proceeds will go directly to the work that N.E.W. does for communities. N.E.W. is still accepting applications from brands and retailers to participate in The Marketplace.
N.E.W. services are not reserved solely for those convicted of cannabis offenses. Although the laws vary from state to state, expungement or record-sealing is possible for some low-level offenses in many jurisdictions. Although not everyone is eligible for relief, to date N.E.W. is credited with leading over 1,000 people to record clearing and sealing, efforts that resulted in a public benefit of over $7 million.
“Expungement or record clearing is the easiest thing we can do for our returning citizens. It provides pathways for stability and opens up doors for building sustainable communities,” said Carbajal. “We’re asking people to help us spread the word and join in the fight for reparative justice and a clean slate for all.”
To register for National Expungement Week events in Los Angeles, send an email to email@example.com or call (818) 570-1548. For activities in other cities across the United States, visit the N.E.W. website or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.