PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island judicial leaders have taken another step toward automatically erasing all records of those who were convicted on misdemeanor or felony charges of marijuana possession.

On Friday Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Suttell issued an executive order that laid out rules for the courts – from the Traffic Tribunal, to district and superior courts – to eliminate criminal and civil violations for marijuana possession for tens of thousands of people.

Last May, Gov. Dan McKee signed The Rhode Island Cannabis Act into law, making it legal for adults over age 21 to possess, grow and purchase marijuana for recreational purposes. The law also charged the chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court with crafting a process for automatic expungements of simple possession convictions and civil violations.

Suttell’s order instructs the courts to identify cases where someone was convicted of, or pleaded no contest to, misdemeanor or felony possession of marijuana, and send them to the attorney general’s office for review. The Providence Journal first reported the court order’s issuance.

“The Department of Attorney General shall review the records of expungement and notify the appropriate court should any errors be identified in the expunged cases,” the order states. “Where applicable, the expungement of civil violations shall also be sent to the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles.”

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Rhode Island had already decriminalized marijuana before passage of the new law, a step that had made possession a civil violation akin to a traffic ticket. The new law would also expunge those records from the courts.

The order separates the cases into two primary categories: people who were convicted of only possession of marijuana, and individuals who were convicted of multiple counts that included a possession charge.

For those cases where possession of marijuana is the sole conviction, the order sets a deadline of three months to automatically expunge the records. A court spokesperson said in May they had identified about 27,000 cases where someone was convicted of just a simple possession charge.

For the more complicated possession cases, where the individual was convicted of multiple crimes, the order sets a deadline of expunging only the possession counts by July 1, 2024.

If an individual wishes to wipe their records clean of marijuana possession charges before the deadline outlined in Suttell’s order, they can submit a written request in person or via email to the relevant court clerk’s office seeking an expedited expungement, free of charge. The request must include the individual’s name, date of birth and case number.

Tim White ( is the Target 12 managing editor and chief investigative reporter at 12 News, and the host of Newsmakers. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.