Stephen Coleburn

Washington Lawmakers Approve Bill Expunging 69,000 Cannabis Convictions

Washington lawmakers have approved legislation for the expungement of some 69,000 cannabis misdemeanors; the bill must be now reconciled in the Senate one last time before going to the governor’s desk.

Full story after the jump.

The Washington state House of Representatives has approved a bill expunging nearly 69,000 misdemeanor cannabis convictions, according to The News Tribune.

The bill, which originated in the Senate, passed the House in a 69-29 vote on Tuesday and now returns to the Senate for the reconciliation of one amendment added by state representatives. The House amendment specifies that the bill would also apply to misdemeanor cannabis convictions resulted from municipal rules in addition to those charges brought under state law.

If re-approved by the Senate, the bill will head to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk for his signature.

“This proved you can do transformative justice reform issues and it’s a bipartisan thing. Our unjust laws of the past shouldn’t hold you back from being successful in the future.” — Bill sponsor state Sen. Joe Nguyen (D)

The Washington State Patrol said that 58,864 individuals with 68,543 misdemeanor cannabis convictions would be eligible for expungement under the proposal. Individuals with cleared convictions would be able to write on job and housing applications that they were never convicted of those cannabis-related crimes.

The bill was lobbied for vigorously by industry stakeholders in Washington, including by members of The Cannabis Alliance, a non-profit organization (of which Ganjapreneur is a supporting member) dedicated to the advancement of a vital, ethical, and sustainable cannabis industry.

“The Alliance worked really hard prior to session in asking Fitzgibbon to bring up this issue once again,” said Executive Director Lara Kaminsky. “We also worked closely with Nguyen to help him get the right energy behind the bill, providing testimony in hearings along the way. We put our time, energy and resources behind this effort because our membership voted ‘Expunging records for cannabis convictions’ as their #2 priority for this legislative session.”

Earlier this year, at an event coordinated by The Cannabis Alliance, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said he would pardon a collection of cannabis convicts, but the Legislature’s proposal would go much further than the governor’s plan.

State Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D) — who sponsored the House version of the bill — has been pushing for similar legislation ever since voters chose in 2012 to end cannabis prohibition via a successful voter initiative.

“The King and Pierce County prosecutors chose [then] to dismiss all pending marijuana misdemeanor possession charges in their jurisdictions. I thought that was a great step,” Rep. Fitzgibbon said in a statement. “The voters no longer felt the possession of small amounts of marijuana should be a crime for people 21 and over.”

Sen. Nguyen and Rep. Fitzgibbon appeared together in a video on the senator’s Facebook page discussing the bill’s successful passage.

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