Weed is already legal in the state of Washington. And now, the state is taking another progressive step forward with its cannabis related laws. Washington Governor Jay Inslee just announced a new program that will allow for people with prior marijuana convictions to have their records cleared. The move is aimed primarily at addressing harm caused by marijuana policing that disproportionately harmed communities of color.
Gov. Inslee’s New Initiative
Gov. Inslee reportedly unveiled his new initiative earlier today. His announcement was part of the Cannabis Alliance annual conference in SeaTac, Washington.
According to the plan outlined by the governor, he will move to create a system in which adults with past marijuana offenses can have those charges pardoned.
This will effectively remove the offense from peoples’ records. As such, it has the potential to help individuals with prior charges gain greater access to jobs, housing, student loans, and many other social services.
“We shouldn’t be punishing people for something that is no longer illegal in Washington state,” Gov. Inslee said. “Forgiving these convictions can help lessen their impact and allow people to move on with their lives. It’s a small step, but one that moves us in the direction of correcting these injustices.”
Under the plan, which is called the Marijuana Justice Initiative, people can apply for clemency if they meet certain requirements. These include:
- In order to apply for clemency, a person can have only one conviction on their record.
- That single conviction must be a prior adult misdemeanor possession.
- The person’s conviction must have occurred in the timeframe between January 1, 1998 and December 5, 2012, when cannabis first became legal in the state.
The governor’s office estimates that somewhere around 3,500 people are eligible to apply to have their records cleared. Applications are available on the governor’s website.
Addressing Past Injustices
As explained by Gov. Inslee, the new Marijuana Justice Initiative aims to accomplish a few different things.
For starters, it’s a way to bring past criminal charges and convictions into alignment with current laws. Rather than forcing people to continue dealing with a criminal record for something that is no longer illegal, Inslee’s initiative will clear those records.
Similarly, the new plan is an attempt to address the racially discriminatory ways in which past cannabis prohibition laws tended to harm people of color.
It is well documented that cannabis laws in particular, and War on Drugs laws more generally, disproportionately harm people of color. And those charges have implications far beyond initial sentencing.
For example, prior convictions can bar people from getting student loans. Similarly, it can keep people from being approved for housing. And criminal records often make it harder to get a job.
By clearing past marijuana offenses, the Marijuana Justice Initiative could remove these barriers from the lives of the 3,500 or so people who qualify.
“This is a small step, but one that moves us in the direction of correcting injustices that disproportionately affected communities of color,” the governor’s website said. “A successful pardon of a marijuana possession conviction can assist with barriers to housing, employment, and education.”