Inslee to offer clemency to low-level marijuana offenders

The governor announced Friday he would forgive thousands of misdemeanor marijuana offenses.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced last week he will pardon low-level marijuana offenders who have a single conviction on their criminal record. Roughly 3,500 people will be eligible for clemency under the new plan, according to the governor’s office.

Inslee announced what’s being called the Marijuana Justice Initiative on Friday at the annual Washington State Cannabis Summit in Seattle.

“We shouldn’t be punishing people for something that is no longer illegal behavior in the state of Washington,” he said.

Under the plan, those with a sole conviction for marijuana possession – incurred between Jan. 1, 1998 and Dec. 5, 2012, when marijuana possession was legalized – can petition for a pardon directly to the governor’s office via an online form.

The conviction must be an adult conviction for misdemeanor marijuana possession, and it must be the only criminal conviction on the petitioner’s record.

The governor has the power to offer clemency under the state constitution. Usually a five-person Clemency and Pardons Board reviews petitions for pardons and submits recommendations to the governor, but in this case, petitioners will be able to skip the board review process in favor of a review directly by the governor’s office, state attorney Tip Wonhoff told the Seattle Times.

The governor cited obstacles to housing, employment, student loans and credit scores for people with marijuana convictions in proposing the measure. He also said that low-level marijuana convictions have disproportionately affected people of color.

“Inslee believes that forgiving these convictions will allow people to move on with their lives without these convictions causing additional burdens on people, their families, their employers and their communities,” a statement from the governor’s office reads.

The petition form to apply for clemency can be found here.

Gabe Stutman is a reporter with the Kitsap News Group. Follow him on Twitter @kitsapgabe.

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