St. Louis man shares story about overcoming marijuana conviction, quest to become a substitute teacher

“I felt the marijuana conviction was overshadowing what I was doing”
Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 10:25 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Hundreds of thousands of Missourians are on standby to have their marijuana convictions expunged now that Missouri voters said, “Yes,” to Amendment 3 on Nov. 8.

Eight grams of marijuana, about a quarter of an ounce, is keeping former social worker Alexander Martin out of the classroom as a substitute teacher.

He told News 4 he plans to be first in line to get expunged next year after a mistake he made at 20-years-old, is still holding him back at age 33.

“When this first happened to me, my life was horrid,” Martin said.

Martin was a Lincoln University student in 2009 when he was arrested for marijuana possession.

He said he got a class b felony and was threatened with four months of jail time.

“I couldn’t get no type of job,” Martin explained. “Walmart, Sears, I was going on three or four interviews just to get denied. I was a college student. I felt the marijuana conviction was overshadowing what I was doing.”

Martin was given five years probation.

A letter from the Missouri Department of Corrections that News 4 obtained, shows Martin’s probation ended in 2013.

Martin said he was told by his probation officer his record was expunged. It was actually just closed off to the general public.

Then this July, an FBI background check to become a substitute teacher for St. Louis Public Schools brought Martin’s record back into the light and began the struggle with Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

He said he didn’t indicate his prior conviction on his application with St. Louis Public Schools because he didn’t think he needed to.

“I had an interview,” Martin shared. “Which was just a formality. You got it, they want you, they reserved this position for you so just do everything else. I did that from July 25 to Aug. 5. I did everything I needed to do.”

Since July, Martin said the state has had his application listed as, “Pending,” for falsifying information.

News 4 contacted DESE to ask why it’s taken so long for Martin to be processed. We got an email back, only saying the state board of education will review Martin’s request in December.

Martin said the Nov. 8 passing of Amendment 3 might expedite his situation.

His first move after the passage of the amendment was to call friend and advocate Melanie Randels to learn how to start his expungement process.

Randels, with The Canna Education Collective, said as many as half a million people in Missouri will have marijuana convictions expunged, going back to 1980. First, the state has to finalize guidelines for that process. Randels said the deadline is February 2023.

“I think it’s important to know these laws, look at them, and hold the system accountable,” Randels explained. “So these people do get expunged and have a new lease in life come February.”

“You have someone willingly and wanting to be a part of these kids’ lives and help alleviate some of the issues that they have in school and implement things that can be impactful,” Martin shared. “But because you only meet a few times a year, I’m at your disposal.”

DESE will next meet to review Martin’s application on Dec. 13.

News 4 did reach out to the St. Louis Public School district about Martin and his pending status. A spokesperson said the district does not comment on internal personnel matters.