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Washington Cities Join in Vacating Cannabis Convictions

In February, the city of Seattle, Washington announced it would vacate all misdemeanor cannabis convictions issued prior to the 2012 legalization of adult use cannabis. Mayor Jenny Durkan cited the need to reverse some of the damage done by the War on Drugs, especially to communities of color. The city attorney is also looking into possibly vacating felony cannabis convictions.

Now, neighboring Pierce County’s prosecutor Mark Lindquist has announced the county would follow Seattle’s lead and vacate cannabis convictions. Pierce County’s plan, unlike Seattle, who will clear the convictions with no questions asked, but will require those seeking their crimes vacated to come to the courthouse, fill out a form, and ask for a judge’s approval.

“We’re concerned about how these convictions might affect the ability of people to get jobs, get housing, and just generally do the things we hope people will do, right? We don’t want an old marijuana conviction, especially now that it’s legal, to be an obstacle,” Lintquist told KIRO News.

Seattle and Pierce County are just among the latest jurisdictions to vacate cannabis convictions. Last year, when California passed adult-use cannabis legalization, the initiative included a provision to expunge cannabis convictions that would no longer be considered crimes under the new law. Local governments like San Diego and San Francisco have followed the state’s lead and began expunging misdemeanor charges.

Other states, like Maryland, Colorado, and Oregon, have also sought to lessen the burden of these outdated convictions on their citizens. Last year, Vermont’s governor pardoned 192 individuals with low-level cannabis charges.

Currently, Washington has a bill in the House that clears cannabis related misdemeanors. Despite the bill having 12 sponsors, it has stalled two years in a row.


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