WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) announced that the R Street Institute has endorsed the Harnessing Opportunities By Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act, which would assist state and local governments in establishing and expanding expungement programs for cannabis offenses.
“The R Street Institute is happy to endorse The Harnessing Opportunities By Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act, and we applaud Rep. Dave Joyce’s focus on aiding states working to expunge certain cannabis related convictions,” said Anthony Lamorena, Federal Affairs Manager of the R Street Institute. “This bipartisan bill will give states and localities the targeted resources they need to automatically expunge the cannabis convictions of countless individuals across the country which, in turn, will break down barriers for those reentering society. Critically, this legislation helps states update the infrastructure needed to implement these automated expungements to improve public safety. The streamlined process resulting from the HOPE Act will greatly help local jurisdictions and the formerly incarcerated alike.”
“Having been both a public defender and a prosecutor, I have seen first-hand how cannabis-related records can foreclose a lifetime of opportunities,” said Congressman Joyce. “By empowering states to expunge minor cannabis offenses, the HOPE Act will help remove barriers preventing people from achieving their American dream and pave the way for millions to reach their full personal and professional potential. R Street Institute’s endorsement highlights how this bipartisan bill can build consensus needed to become law and actually achieve the reform that the American people are calling for.”
The HOPE Act would create a new grant program under the U.S. Department of Justice, the State Expungement Opportunity Grant Program, and authorize it to be funded up to $20 million over the span of Fiscal Years 2023-2032. Through this grant program, the Attorney General would be authorized to make grants to states and local governments to reduce the financial and administrative burden of expunging convictions for cannabis offenses that States have made available to individuals who have been convicted of such offenses under the laws of the State.
Outside of Joyce’s HOPE Act, both President Biden and Congress’ cannabis expungement efforts have focused solely on federal crimes. However, while a small number of individuals may qualify for the expungement of low-level, federal cannabis charges over the course of decades of enforcement, the reality is that the overwhelming majority of cannabis-related charges are handled by state and local law enforcement. In 2019, the federal government was only involved in a fraction of the 545,000 cannabis offenses charged in the United States. That year, the FBI charged only 5,350 individuals with a top-line charge for any drug offense, not just cannabis. The ACLU estimates that around 14 million Americans suffer the consequences of cannabis-related arrest records at the state and local level over the past two decades.
Conservative in approach but progressive in scope, the HOPE Act has garnered support from across the ideological spectrum, including: Americans for Prosperity, Drug Policy Alliance, the Last Prisoner Project, Weldon Angelos, U.S. Cannabis Council, Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation, NORML, National Cannabis Roundtable, National Cannabis Industry Association, National Medicinal Cannabis Coalition, Metrc, and more.