On Saturday, April 27, a bill in Washington state requiring courts to vacate misdemeanor cannabis convictions upon request passed the Senate for the second time and is now on its way to the desk of Gov. Jay Inslee (D). The action came shortly after the House passed an amended version and despite opposition from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.
The bill, SB 5605, follows the governor’s Marijuana Justice Initiative, which provides a process for pardoning misdemeanor cannabis convictions. Like the governor’s “initiative,” applicants for the vacancy must have been 21 at the time of their arrest.
By vacating a conviction, eligible Washingtonians will have all references to the conviction removed from their record, allowing them to answer “No” when asked the question “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” on housing or job applications. The court may choose not to vacate if applicants have criminal charges pending, if fewer than three years have passed since the terms of the sentence were met, or if the applicant has been convicted of a new crime.
According to a report prepared by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, there were 240,000 possession arrests in Washington between 1986 and 2010. The report also found communities of color were disproportionately affected by cannabis arrests. Proponents of the legislation say that, by passing this bill, Washington will join other states trying to reverse the damage done to communities of color by unjust cannabis laws.
The bill was pushed for heavily by The Cannabis Alliance, a cannabis industry trade organization of which Ganjapreneur is a supporting member. “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,” said Cannabis Alliance Executive Director Lara Kaminsky.
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