Seattle Is Clearing Convictions For Misdemeanor Pot Possession

Mike Force

Mike Force

Seattle's mayor and city attorney announced plans to ask the courts to vacate all misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions that were prosecuted before it was legalized in Washington state in 2012 - a move that could affect the records of hundreds of people. A release from City Attorney Pete Holmes stated that there were 240,000 total pot arrests from 1986 to 2010, noting that simple pot possession cases stopped being charged in 2010.

In Spokane, the City Council already voted on this matter years ago.

Last week the city of San Francisco announced that they would be clearing all marijuana convictions from 1975 to today from their records. At this time past year, fewer than 10 people had come forward to get their conviction vacated. The Seattle City Attorney's Office will be asking Seattle's municipal court to vacate convictions and dismiss charges for misdemeanor marijuana possession prosecuted by the City of Seattle.

Just like in San Francisco, the reason the city is taking this action is to speed up the process.

Between the years 1986 and 2010, police in Washington made an estimated 240,000 marijuana possession arrests.

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"The City of Seattle has always been a pioneer in changing the way we approach marijuana". And this, she says, "is really a necessary step to right the wrongs" of what she called a failed war which disproportionately affected poor communities of color across the country. In Washington state, African Americans were arrested at 2.9 times the rate of whites during the first decade of this century.

The final decision to undo the convictions is up to the courts, according to Holmes. Fewer than 5,000 people have gone through the time and expense involved.

Unlike the Seattle City Attorney's Office, Gascon's handles felonies as well as misdemeanors.

"If a case is more than three years old, we have to go to the warehouse where we hold our old files, pull them out, and figure out if the felony was a $10 sale or a 1,000-plant grow house", Satterberg said.

That said, he encouraged anyone who believes they have a low-level King County marijuana conviction to contact his office for help having it erased.

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