After years of lobbying efforts by citizens, activist groups and legislators in Washington State, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has signed SB 5605, “Concerning misdemeanor marijuana offense convictions.”
The new law allows Washingtonians who were previously arrested for misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor cannabis possession to request a court vacancy for that conviction. This would allow said individuals to answer “No” when asked, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” on job and/or housing applications.
The new law, however, does have some hoops to jump through. To be eligible for the program, a person must:
- Have been twenty-one or older when convicted.
- Have been convicted under Washington state law.
- Have been sentenced between January 1, 1998, and December 5, 2012.
- And only been convicted of the one cannabis possession charge.
The court reserves the right to not vacate a sentence for various other administrative reasons, but it’s estimated the new law will help roughly 69,000 Washingtonians. The “Act” must be funded in the Omnibus Appropriations budget by June 30, 2019.
In an email, Danielle Rosellison — president of the Cannabis Alliance, a Washington State trade organization who lobbied heavily for the bill — said, “Cannabis Alliance is proud that our members voted expungement of non-violent cannabis convictions as one of the priorities they wanted to address this session and we could not be more excited about the passage of this bill!”
“This is one small step to righting the wrongs of the War on Drugs. The work is not done, but this will help about 69,000 Washingtonians,” Rosellison said.
The legislation comes on the heels of the governor’s “Marijuana Justice Initiative,” a program which allows applicants to ask the governor for a pardon for their misdemeanor cannabis convictions. Pardoning, however, does not completely erase the crime from a person’s record, so the legislature opted for conviction “vacancy” to go one step further in erasing some damage the drug war has caused.