• Seattle will move to vacate misdemeanor marijuana cases

    By: KIRO 7 News Staff


    Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes will ask Seattle courts to vacate misdemeanor marijuana convictions that occurred before pot became legal in Washington State.

    The plan was announced at a news conference Thursday.

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    Initiative 502 passed in 2012.  It legalized possession and recreational use of pot for those 21 and older.

    Holmes will be asking the Seattle Municipal Court to vacate convictions and dismiss charges for marijuana possession prosecuted by the city.

    Durkan said people’s lives were ruined for misdemeanor marijuana offenses and the action would be a first step in putting progressive values into action.

    Addressing decades of unjust convictions – and particularly the damage wrought on communities of color – won’t happen overnight. We must provide more effective alternatives to prosecution and incarceration through drug and mental health courts, restoring rights and supporting re-entry, said Durkan.

    Prosecutors will review an additional 4,900 felony marijuana charges to decide if they should be reduced to misdemeanors, according to MyNorthwest.

    While minor marijuana possession has been a low priority for Seattle police since 2003, the city continued to charge for possession until Holmes took office as city attorney in 2010.  

    The new policy will affect those who were convicted of offenses for conduct that is now legal under state law. A motion will be made for all those found to eligible, which will not require any action by individuals.   

    Arrests for possessing pot rose in the 25-year period from 4,000 in 1986 to 11,000 in 2010, totaling 240,000 arrests, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.

    In King County, there were 65,483 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana. In Washington State, African Americans were arrested at 2.9 times the rate of whites. Latinos and Native Americans were arrested at 1.6 times the rate of whites, according to the city.

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