If I Got Busted for Pot Years Ago, Should I Disclose It on Applications for Jobs and Housing?

If I Got Busted for Pot Years Ago, Should I Disclose It on Applications for Jobs and Housing?

Jane Meggitt
 | 
As of April 2021, marijuana for adult recreational use has been legalized in  16 states, the District of Columbia and two territories. More states will likely legalize cannabis in the next future. Another 27 states and D.C. have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis.

A criminal conviction for marijuana can affect your life for years. If you were busted for pot long ago, you may wonder if the conviction is still something necessary to disclose on applications for jobs and housing. The answer – it depends on where you live and the employer or landlord.

Keep in mind that it is never wise to lie on job applications.
Employers generally conduct criminal background checks on prospective employees, and such a check will uncover a minor pot conviction. For some employers, a pot bust from years ago may mean little and your overall fit for the company is the primary criteria. For others, it could prove a deal breaker. Clearing your record can prevent a long-ago pot bust from appearing on a criminal background check.


Clearing the Record
Forty-one states, D.C. , Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have enacted laws to clear the records of those convicted of minor marijuana offenses.  If you reside in a state with such a law, find out how to clear, or expunge, your record. Once the record is expunged, you will not have to worry about disclosing the conviction in most job or housing applications.

Expungement means to seal or destroy a criminal record from state or federal records. Almost all expungements go through state courts.

Eligibility for cannabis expungements vary by state. For instance, in South Carolina, clearing a cannabis record is only possible for a first-time drug possession offense. Currently, cannabis is illegal in South Carolina for both medical and recreational purposes.

California, Illinois, New Jersey and New York automatically expunge low-level marijuana convictions as long as the person meets certain criteria. In other states, the applicant must start the expungement process themselves.

Housing Applications
Federal housing is subject to federal laws. Under HUD’s 2014 Metcalf Memo, the use of marijuana is prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act in any federal housing, including medical cannabis. By the same token, a marijuana conviction renders an applicant ineligible for federal housing. However, this is an area where the law is evolving rapidly.

In California, independent Public Housing Authorities conduct a criminal background check on applicants for housing and housing vouchers. The PHAs look at drug convictions within the past five years, so if your conviction is older than that, it should not affect your eligibility.

When applying for other types of rental housing, expect the landlord to conduct a criminal background check. Again, it is not wise to lie on the application if you have not expunged your record. Some private landlords have policies which bar renting to those with criminal convictions, although they may be in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Other landlords may not consider a minor marijuana conviction an issue.

Employment Applications
Marijuana convictions may affect the ability to obtain a professional license, but  many states are overhauling their laws regarding criminal record consideration in occupational licensing and employment. This includes barring the consideration of certain types of records after a specific time period. Such records may include minor marijuana convictions.

For example, Maryland prohibits occupational licensing boards from denying applications solely due to drug convictions if more than seven years have elapsed since sentence completion with no additional charges. Some states may subject certain licensing agencies –such as medicine, law or law enforcement –to a different standard than agencies governing electricians, plumbers and barbers.

Seek Legal Advice
Do not allow a past marijuana conviction to keep up at night or prevent you from realizing your full potential. If you have questions about an old pot conviction and would like to know how to expunge your record, contact an attorney specializing in this field.

 
This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.
 
Jane Meggitt

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