Organizers assist community members seeking to expunge cannabis convictions

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. People struggling to get marijuana convictions wiped off their criminal records are getting a helping hand.

Advocates and attorneys teamed up in downtown Rochester on Thursday to make it happen. 4/20 has become an unofficial holiday for many supporters of cannabis legalization nationwide, which makes Rochester’s first Changing Legacies event even more timely.

Organizers say paperwork and conflicting regional restrictions make expunging past cannabis convictions a difficult task, opening the door to second chances, one expungement clinic at a time.

“In order for folks to really start their lives, get into public housing, get public healthcare, we take off the paper handcuffs,” Khari Edwards, Ayr Wellness chair of corporate and social responsibility.

It’s what Edwards says is part of the company’s mission as it aims to expand into New York.

“What we really want to do is really create partnerships and relationships in communities that we serve and although we aren’t in New York yet, Rochester is a place we want to call home,” Edwards said.

Joining organizers and local attorneys at Urban Euphoria on Thursday afternoon, former Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren says conflicting regional restrictions make expunging cannabis convictions a complicated process.

“There have been a number of dispensaries that have opened across the state,” Warren said. “I think that the closest one to upstate New York is in Jamestown. So there are some legal challenges due to the way the law is written. “

These are reasons that volunteers like paralegal Fred Owen showed up to help people get the required documentation needed to clear their records.

“We are all about helping our clients obtain their criminal records so they know exactly what’s on them,” Owen said. “If there are any errors we can help correct them.”

This is all in an effort to take down barriers organizers say convictions create for New Yorkers.

Sponsors of the event say that cannabis convictions have impacted the ability of people with multiple convictions to secure housing, employment, and other opportunities.