Drug Screening Compliance Update: Alaska May Hide Old Minor Marijuana Crimes from View

In 2014, Alaska took its place among the first states in the nation to legalize marijuana for recreational usage. State voters approved that measure strongly. However, in the decade following the adoption of this new law, many people with old marijuana convictions continue to face challenging barriers. Minor convictions for possession or sale can remain on someone's record, potentially influencing landlords and employers to deny housing or jobs even if they can pass a drug screening today.

New efforts by Alaskan courts and legislators aim at those barriers, though some employers may worry they're about to lose a valuable source of information.

Early in 2023, the Alaska Supreme Court ordered the removal of about 750 minor cannabis-related criminal convictions from public view. A new bill proposed in the Alaska House of Representatives would enshrine the court's order in law. This law would mandate the removal of records before 2014 and did not involve commissioning a separate crime charged alongside the cannabis crime.

Lawmakers estimate that the new rule could impact about 8,500 records. If passed, these records would no longer be available for public records on Alaska’s CourtView website. They would also not appear on any state background checks used by employers, although they could still appear on federal background checks.

At no time will the actual criminal records associated with these crimes cease to exist. Notably and unusually, this is not a law to seal or expunge these records. Instead, they will no longer be easily accessed through the state's online CourtView or background check systems. This means there are still technically ways for someone to discover these records.

Anyone who requests these records directly from a local courthouse can still access this information. However, that would also require an employer or landlord to know in the first place that a candidate is likely to have minor marijuana convictions in their past. One could not simply arrive at the courthouse on a "fishing expedition" to try and dig up records based on a guess.

For now, the scope of the law remains limited to minor crimes. More serious felony-level drug charges won't be included in the process, and employers will still be able to see those. Currently, Alaska allows employers to fire or refuse employment to individuals who actively use cannabis or test positive during a drug test for employment. Therefore, a pre-employment drug test procedure may be a vital element to consider for employers concerned about this change in the law.

As lawmakers continue to reshape how employers can make decisions about their job applicants, now is a good time to review and update your policies. Employment drug testing remains a pillar of the process and one many states broadly recognize as a business owner's prerogative. Although some types of drug tests today now omit cannabis, Alaskan employers can still access this resource with the right partner.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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