(Not actually the seal of the state of Washington.) traffic_analyzer/Getty Images
If you were unlucky enough to be convicted for misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor cannabis offenses in Washington State prior to cannabis being legalized, well, that really sucks, and I’m sorry. The vile absurdity of how we treat those who partook of weed before it became a taxed and regulated commodity remains one of the more vexing parts of legalization. Those kinds of convictions can negatively impact opportunities for employment, housing, and educational loans. And the fact that communities and people of color were disproportionally impacted by such enforcement actions adds another layer to this insanity.
But starting this week, there are now expanded opportunities for those who got popped for enjoying green in the Evergreen State to remove that which never should have been from their records.
Per the Seattle Times, Washington Governor Jay Inslee—one of the 46 people running for the position of Democratic presidential candidate—announced in January that he would begin issuing pardons for those with misdemeanor cannabis offenses.
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But there were some restrictions on that offer. It 1) only having it apply to those convicted of a single offense, 2) must have been a violation of state cannabis laws, and 3) must have occurred between January 1, 1998, and December 5, 2012.
Thankfully, a bill Inslee signed in April has gone into effect, and broadens the options for relief. That bill makes it possible for those with multiple offenses to qualify for expungement (the “Oops I Did It Again” clause). Furthermore, the date of the conviction no longer matters, and the qualifying offense can now include municipal cannabis violations.
Once a conviction is vacated, the “offender” benefits in two notable ways: As the Seattle Times writes, “The person is clear of all penalties that resulted from it, and it can’t be considered during sentencing for any subsequent conviction, according to a legislative analysis of the bill. Further, a person who has a conviction vacated can state that they have never been convicted of the crime when applying for housing or employment.” Well, all right, all right, all right…
Getting this done is a relatively straightforward process involving identifying the court where the conviction(s) occurred (try using this Washington State Court Directory), and then filing basic paperwork known as a “Motion and Declaration for Order Vacating Marijuana Conviction” form (which you can download via this link). Request a hearing when you file the paperwork, then proceed as instructed. Soon, those in Washington State will no longer be burdened by the weight of being a “canna-convict.”