The marijuana wave has reached a point in its movement that questions the people who have a misdemeanor marijuana possession conviction on their record. Now people in Washington are eligible to obtain an expedited pardon under a new program introduced by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee on Jan. 4, 2019.
During the Cannabis Alliance’s annual conference in Seattle, the governor announced his Marijuana Justice Initiative during a speech.
He commented saying, “It is time to end marijuana injustice in the state of Washington. It is the right thing to do because a simple possession conviction 20 years ago should not be a life sentence for a Washingtonian.”
Under the new program, if a person has a simple possession conviction and no other convictions dating back to 1998, they now have the chance to fill out a petition on the governor’s website and get the record cleared for good.
Once the petition is granted, Inslee’s office will advise the State Patrol to remove the person from the public criminal record system.
The governor took to Twitter to announce his new program tweeting, “We shouldn’t be punishing people for something that is no longer illegal in Washington state. It is time to end marijuana injustice in our state. #marijuanajustice”
According to the estimated numbers, around 3,500 people living in Washington may qualify for the pardon.
“Although our voters legalized the use privately of marijuana, we still have an injustice today that thousands of people have on their records a criminal conviction for something that is legal today,” Inslee said.
He also added, “This is impairing their ability to reach their dreams and live their lives and raise their children. Those convictions sometimes can impair their ability to finance a house; it can impair their ability to get a shot at a good job, it can stop them even sometimes from taking their kids for a field trip. And in itself, having a criminal conviction on your record is just not a healthy thing for people.”
He believes, “Forgiving marijuana convictions can help lessen their impact and allow people to move on with their lives, with a better job and housing prospects.”
In regards to the initiative, the governor addressed if individuals with other marijuana-related convictions are still able to apply through the standard clemency request process if they do not qualify for the initial program.
The senior staff attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Jolene Forman said in a recent press release, “This is a necessary first step for repairing the racially disparate harms of marijuana prohibition. This will give thousands of people a fresh start to pursue education and employment without the stain of a criminal conviction.”
She also argued, “Black and brown people are much more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than white people, despite similar rates of use across races. We encourage Gov. Inslee to clear all prior marijuana convictions, to repair the historical inequities in marijuana enforcement. People convicted of marijuana offenses before legalization should be treated like they would be today.”
The initiative was first introduced during a December 2019 interview with Buzzfeed News Program, AM2DM, hinting at the changes to come. The governor was also asked if he, himself consumed marijuana. However, the governor denied any allegations or rumors that he did, although he said he grew a few plants. But despite his confession, his office later rejected his claim in an email to the Marijuana Moment.