Washington Gov. Plans to Pardon Thousands of Cannabis Offenders

The New Year will offer a fresh start to thousands of cannabis offenders in Washington state. On Friday, Washington governor Jay Inslee (D) introduced the Marijuana Justice Initiative, a move that will allow nearly 3,500 people apply for expedited pardons.

During the Washington State Cannabis Summit yesterday, Governor Inslee said he would be using his clemency authority to enact an expedited process for people convicted of misdemeanor cannabis offenses to apply for pardons. This means the initiative will not need to be cleared by the state legislature, which can drag out the timeline for enacting new policies. To speed things up further, the website where individuals can apply for their pardon has already been launched.

"We shouldn't be punishing people for something that is no longer illegal behavior in the state of Washington," Inslee said when he announced the Marijuana Justice Initiative.

There are a few caveats, however. Not everyone convicted of a marijuana crime in Washington will be eligible for a pardon under the new initiative. According to the initiative's website, individuals will only be eligible if their conviction meet the following criteria:

  • the offense must be an adult conviction for misdemeanor marijuana possession that was prosecuted under Washington state law (RCW), not a local ordinance;
  • the conviction must have occurred between January 1, 1998 and December 5, 2012;
  • the offense must be the only conviction on your criminal record.

Inslee's initiative is a step in the right direction, but not the end of the matter, according to Jolene Forman - Senior Staff Attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance, a non-profit organization that campaigns for drug policy reform in America.

"This is a necessary first step for repairing the racially disparate harms of marijuana prohibition," Forman told Leafly. "This will give thousands of people a fresh start to pursue education and employment without the stain of a criminal conviction."

"We encourage Governor Inslee to clear all prior marijuana convictions, in order to repair the historical inequities in marijuana enforcement," she added. "People convicted of marijuana offenses before legalization should be treated like they would be today."

Inslee's announcement comes a few month's after Seattle - the state's most populous city - established their own program to remove past marijuana convictions from individual's records. So 2019 is already off to a good start for cannabis offenders looking for a second chance.

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