Gov. Inslee offers pardons for certain marijuana convictions

VIDEO: Gov. Inslee announces he will pardon marijuana convictions for thousands of people

Pardons will be offered to some people who have misdemeanor marijuana convictions in Washington state.

Gov. Jay Inslee authorized the Marijuana Justice Initiative, which will allow thousands of people with a single conviction on their criminal record to submit a petition for clemency.

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Under the initiative, pardoning of that single conviction is only being granted to roughly 3,500 people prosecuted under Washington state law with an adult misdemeanor marijuana possession between Jan. 1, 1998, and Dec. 5, 2012.

Marijuana did not become legal in Washington until after Initiative 502 passed by popular vote on the November 2012 ballot. It allows those who are 21 and older to possess limited amounts of legalized pot and pot-related products to be used recreationally.

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Marijuana was first able to be purchased legally in Washington on July 8, 2014. Washington was the second state, after Colorado, to sell recreational marijuana.

Inslee said that forgiving the convictions will help lessen the impact on people’s lives. Some of those impacts include barriers to housing, employment, student loans and even being able to go on a school field trip with a child.

“I'm here today to say that we should not be punishing people for something that is no longer an illegal behavior in the state of Washington,” Inslee said at the Cannabis Alliance conference in Seattle.  “Those convictions can sometimes impair their ability to finance a house.  It can impair their ability to get a shot at a good job.  It can stop them sometimes from even taking their kids for a field trip.”

For those who are interested in applying, a lawyer will not be needed and neither will a visit to a courtroom. You just fill out a petition form online.

People who don't meet that criteria can still apply for a pardon through the standard clemency process.
"Now I don't have the authority -- if you were specifically asked if you were ever convicted of a crime, you'd probably have to say yes" "and then say it is removed. It has been pardoned. It has no legal effect," Inslee said.

The governor's office will ask the Washington State Patrol to remove pardoned convictions from the criminal history report available to the public, but police will still be able to see the conviction on your criminal history.

The expedited pardon process is expected to take a couple of weeks.