Jim Bowen

The Washington State legislature has proposed House and Senate companion bills that, if passed, would grant clemency for some Washingtonians convicted of misdemeanor cannabis possession since January 1, 1998 — the year Washington passed I-692 to legalize medical cannabis.

If passed, the new law would allow citizens with multiple misdemeanor convictions to apply to the court to have their records expunged; the courts would be required to grant the requests. Unlike Governor Jay Inslee’s widely praised Marijuana Justice Initiative — which only 3,500 people are eligible for due to the requirement that applicants can only have one misdemeanor cannabis conviction — the new proposals would offer relief to over 200,000 Washingtonians, according to The Seattle Times.

Representative Joe Fitzgibbon (D) has introduced similar bills to the House every year since 2013 but feels this year things may turn out differently than in years past. “It just seems like there is a lot more momentum this year than any of the past times I have taken a run at it,” he said.

The primary sponsor of the Senate bill, Senator Joe Nguyen (D), cites widely publicized racial injustices in cannabis law enforcement for his support of the bills. If passed, Washington would join other states like California, Maryland, Colorado, New Hampshire and Oregon in erasing some of the damage done by prior cannabis convictions.

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