Seattle to overturn hundreds of marijuana convictions with new court ruling

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Hundreds of convictions to be wiped off criminal records

Municipal Court judges in Seattle have followed other jurisdictions in reversing marijuana-related convictions. The judges have agreed to reverse the convictions for hundreds of individuals, as well as dismiss charges, related to misdemeanor possession prior to the legalization of marijuana in the state.

This past April, City Attorney Pete Holmes submitted a motion that was designed to see all the misdemeanor marijuana convictions from 1996 to 2010 be erased. The motion was an effort “to right the injustices of a drug war that has primarily targeted people of color.”

The motion was unanimously accepted by all seven court judges on September 11. The decision could lead to as many as 542 people having their records expunged, but only on misdemeanor charges – the court doesn’t preside over felony cases.

According to the judges, “Insomuch as the conduct for which the defendant was convicted is no longer criminal, setting aside the conviction and dismissing the case serves the interests of justice.” They gave Holmes the authority to turn over the last known address of all of those with misdemeanor marijuana convictions during the timeframe, to whom the court will send notices to inform them of the change. Recipients of the letter will have 33 days to object to the motion, or to request an individualized finding. Following the 33-day period, the court will expunge the records of those who have not objected or asked for the individualized findings.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan supports the move. She said, “For too many who call Seattle home, a misdemeanor marijuana conviction or charge has created barriers to opportunity — good jobs, housing, loans and education. While we cannot reverse the harm that was done, we will continue to give Seattle residents … a clean slate.”

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