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New Montana drug court will handle expungement of marijuana-related crimes

State lawmakers got an update on September 14 on Montana’s new medical marijuana regulation program.

State officials are finalizing plans to create a new drug court dedicated solely to the expungement of past marijuana-related convictions.

The same bill that established the framework of legal, recreational cannabis sales in Montana also allows for the resentencing or expungement of marijuana-related crimes.

State Supreme Court Administrator Beth McLaughlin told state lawmakers Wednesday that staff are drafting so-called “plain language” rules to help people representing themselves better navigate the expungement process.

“If somebody comes into court and they’re petitioning the court to do something and they don’t know exactly what the statute requires them to ask for, it’s going to take more of the judge’s time, and it’s just going to clog things up even more,” McLaughlin says.

McLaughlin told members of the legislature’s Economic Affairs Interim Committee that the new expungement court should be implemented by the new year.

Montanans can seek expungement of these convictions through their local district court. McLaughlin estimates about 135 such petitions were filed in Montana courts last year, fewer than originally anticipated.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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