The City of Seattle has filed a motion with the Seattle Municipal court that would remove marijuana convictions handed down between 1997 and 2010.
“Vacating charges for misdemeanor marijuana possession is a necessary step to correct the injustices of what was a failed war on drugs, which disproportionately affected communities of color in Seattle,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan (D) in a statement.
The motion would affect some 542 people who were charged for marijuana possession in Seattle. It includes language aimed at helping noncitizens who also became victims of cannabis prohibition.
"While we cannot reverse all the harm that was done, we must do our part to give Seattle residents – including immigrants and refugees – a clean slate," Durkan added. "Noncitizens have also been unduly burdened by these convictions, which can provide a roadblock to gaining citizenship, or in the worst case, can initiate deportation proceedings."
While cannabis only became fully legalized in Washington state in 2012, the city of Seattle had stopped charging for marijuana possession in 2010. That's why the cut off predates the implementation of legalization.
The motion to vacate criminal records was started by City Attorney Pete Holmes, who thinks it's hypocritical for people to carry the burden of an offense that is no longer on the books.
“As we see marijuana sold in retail storefronts today, people who simply had a joint in their pocket a decade ago still have a red mark on their records,” Holmes said. “It’s long past time we remedy the drug policies of yesteryear, and this is one small step to right the injustices of a drug war that has primarily targeted people of color. I’m hopeful the court will choose to clear these charges.”
The Seattle motion comes on the heels of of other cities like San Fransisco which have also implemented erasure of some cannabis crimes. Of course, any federal or state convictions will continue to appear on the records of people who have them.