Washington governor announces plan to pardon marijuana misdemeanors

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced on Friday a plan to expedite pardons for individuals convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Inslee said in a statement that officials should no longer punish people for something that is no longer illegal. Washington state legalized marijuana possession in 2012. 

“Forgiving these convictions can help lessen their impact and allow people to move on with their lives,” Inslee said in a statement. “It’s a small step, but one that moves us in the direction of correcting these injustices.”

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Inslee made the announcement while speaking at the Cannabis Alliance's annual conference.

The new Marijuana Justice Initiative will expedite the pardon process for adults with a single misdemeanor conviction for marijuana possession between Jan. 1, 1998, and Dec. 5, 2012, when possession was legalized.

An estimated 3,500 people are eligible for pardons under the initiative, according to state records. Convictions disproportionally affect communities of color. 

“A successful pardon of a marijuana possession conviction can assist with barriers to housing, employment and education," the governor's website states. "This will help people move on from a past mistake and toward a better life."

The statewide initiative follows a similar order in Seattle to vacate more than 500 misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions in September.