Seattle, Washington is doing even more to expunge criminal records of marijuana possession convictions from before 2010. The state has already cleared many records and granted clemency to inmates for what is now the legal act of marijuana possession since 2012 in the state of Washington.
A total of 542 records are expected to be expunged by a municipal judge soon. Criminal records of any sort can automatically disqualify people from jobs or entry into school. A frivolous marijuana possession arrest alone can steer a young person’s life completely off course and both Mayor Durkan and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes are determined to amend what they now feel was a wrong done to the people of Seattle.
“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,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement. “The war on drugs in large part became a war on people who needed opportunity and treatment. 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.”
The move is the latest in a series of steps Seattle has taken to reduce or eliminate penalties for pot possession. In 2003, city voters mandated that marijuana possession be made the lowest law-enforcement priority possible, and in 2010, City Attorney Pete Holmes announced he would stop prosecuting simple possession cases, no matter how many tickets the police department wrote.
A few months later after legal sales began, an angry Holmes threw out nearly 90 marijuana tickets written by a single officer who appeared upset at legalization and began targeting homeless and minority men with public consumption and possession tickets. At the time, Holmes called the officer’s actions “abhorrent.”
We are still waiting on many other states and cities that have legalized marijuana to expunge records of marijuana possession charges. Why do you think state authorities do not prioritize granting clemency and expunging records for nonviolent marijuana possession crimes once cannabis is legalized?