Citing the war on drugs’ disproportionate impact on people of color, judges in Seattle have agreed to vacate the marijuana convictions of hundreds of people who were punished for pot possession before the state made weed legal.
According to the Seattle Times, in April, city attorney Pete Holmes filed a motion asking the city’s seven municipal court judges to vacate the convictions of anyone charged with misdemeanor possession between 1996 and 2010. Holmes, who was elected in 2010, decided to stop prosecuting minor weed offenses when he took office.
Even though Washington state legalized ganja in 2012, Holmes urged the city to clear the past offenses in order to “right the injustices of a drug war that has primarily targeted people of color.” On Monday, all seven judges puffed, puffed and passed the order (pdf).
“Inasmuch as the conduct for which the defendant was convicted is no longer criminal,” read the judges’ order, “setting aside the conviction and dismissing the case serves the interests of justice.”
The order also noted:
Possession of Marijuana charges prosecuted in Seattle Municipal Court between 1996 and 2010 disproportionally impacted persons of color in general, and the African American community in particular. Of the over 500 cases involved in this motion, the racial demographics of defendants were: 3% Asian, 46% black, 46% white, 3% Native American, 2% unknown. The Court makes no finding that these numbers are 100% accurate, or that individual defendants were specifically impacted because of their race.
City officials estimate that 542 people will be affected by the motion – though I had hoped the number would be somewhere closer to 420. Anyone affected by the order will be notified by mail and will have 33 days to object to having the charge removed or request an individualized filing. Those who want the charges removed from their records will have to do absolutely nothing (which is good, because they will probably be high).
“For too many who call Seattle home, a misdemeanor marijuana conviction or charge has created barriers to opportunity—good jobs, housing, loans and education,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who, for some reason, did not have a blunt behind her ear. “While we cannot reverse the harm that was done, we will continue to give Seattle residents … a clean slate.”
When asked if they could issue an order to my high school friend’s mother who still gives me the stinkeye because he told her that the cigar remnants on her floorboard came from me busting a blunt in the back seat of her Geo Metro when we went to the Al B. Sure concert, the judges replied:
“Good luck with that.”