BISMARCK, N.D. - North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum says he has pardoned 16 people convicted of low-level marijuana crimes according to KFYR-TV.

It's the first wave in what could be thousands of pardons under a new policy the first-term Republican said allows former offenders to get a second chance.

The policy adopted last year allows people with low-level marijuana convictions petition to have their records wiped clean if they avoid unlawful behavior for five years.

Burgum and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem both supported the change.

North Dakota’s pardon advisory board in November recommended wiping criminal records clean for 26 people with low-level marijuana convictions.

Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said the governor’s office reviewed the cases and determined only 16 qualified.

“They went through a second round of vetting,” Nowatzki said. “This is something the governor takes very seriously.”

Burgum has said the policy change could help address North Dakota’s workforce shortage and grow its economy, while removing the stigma for what are minor cases from years ago.

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