OZARK, Mo. – Thousands of Missourians should no longer have to explain misdemeanor marijuana cases when they fill out applications for jobs or housing. Judges and clerks had until Thursday to expunge those cases after voters passed Amendment 3 in November.
“Christian County is ahead of the game,” Presiding Commissioner Lynn Morris said. “We’re already past the next deadline and we’re working overtime.”
But some with misdemeanors are still waiting to get the charges off their record, as clerks said they have not had time to look at records dating back to the 80s and 90s.
“We’re still looking in files that are in our computer system,” Circuit Clerk Barb Stillings said.
Even with the electronic cases, Stillings said it’s been a tedious process for judges and clerks.
“We’re probably into the thousands, and the majority do not qualify,” Stillings said. “We ran every report we can and are working on every report to see if somebody qualifies or not. If we think they qualify, then we send it to the judges and they make the final determination.”
Christian county judges and clerks have worked 300 hours of overtime to get through the misdemeanor marijuana cases, which includes help from retired workers.
“All the overtime is still being paid by the state because we didn’t appropriate any of that money for overtime,” Morris said. “They got four clerks because each judge has a clerk and they also have some staff and all the clerks and the staff has to do all this preliminary work.”
The preliminary work includes diving through each case to see what someone was charged with.
“We’re looking at these [cases from] ten years ago and hoping that [police] write that it’s marijuana paraphernalia or they write the amount of pounds or ounces,” Stillings said. “It’s just literally going line by line on documents. It’s very time-consuming because you don’t want to miss [anything].”
From there, clerks take the case to the judge for them to make the final decision on if the case is expungable.
“They may have one count that’s recreational marijuana, but they also may have some other more serious counts,” Morris said. “They’re only expunging the marijuana misdemeanor. So, they still may hold some other counts on their record.” That will always be on the record.”
Although the county is ahead of the game, Stillings said there is still a lot of work left.
“I’m like not even worried about the deadlines as much, just continually working because it’s just really hard to know when we’re going to be done,” Stillings said.”I wish the people that went together to create Amendment 3 would have worked with the state courts a little bit more.”
The final deadline to expunge marijuana records is in December.