Today I’m attending the Washington State Cannabis Summit. This is the 5th Annual summit, but this year is particularly special due to a major announcement by Governor Jay Inslee. During the morning session, Gov. Inslee unveiled the Marijuana Justice Initiative. The Initiative will allow individuals to submit an online petition to Gov. Inslee requesting a pardon for certain marijuana convictions.
To be eligible for clemency under the Initiative, an individual’s conviction must meet the following criteria:
- It must be an adult conviction for misdemeanor marijuana possession;
- Prosecuted under Washington state law (RCW), not a local ordinance;
- The conviction must have occurred between January 1, 1998 and December 5, 2012;
- It must be the only conviction on a person’s criminal record.
Individuals who do not qualify under the initiative may seek clemency by filing a petition with the Clemency and Pardons Board.
Gov. Inslee deserves credit here for using his pardon power to address some of the damage done by the war on drugs. The Governor’s office summarized this harm in its press release announcing the Initiative:
For decades, people have faced criminal prosecution for behavior that is no longer considered a crime in Washington. Inslee believes that forgiving these convictions will allow people to move on with their lives without these convictions causing additional burdens on people, their families, their employers and their communities. This is a small step, but one that moves us in the direction of correcting injustices that disproportionately affected communities of color. A successful pardon of a marijuana possession conviction can assist with barriers to housing, employment and education.”
Gov. Inslee’s office estimates that roughly 3,500 individuals will qualify for clemency under the Initiative.
Gov. Inslee made the announcement to a room full of Washington’s marijuana industry stakeholders. This includes marijuana business, owners, lawyers, accountants, regulators, and lawmakers. As the industry develops, it’s important that criminal justice issues remain in the forefront. This Initiative is a good start. Hopefully, in the future this Initiative can expand to encompass more than just 3,500 individuals. Kudos to Gov. Inslee for starting off 2019 with marijuana criminal justice reform.