Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes have asked the city’s courts to vacate misdemeanor marijuana charges for anyone convicted prior to the legalization of pot in Washington state.
“It is really a necessary step to right the wrongs of what was a failed war on drugs,” Durkan said a news conference on Thursday.
“The City of Seattle has long been a pioneer in changing the way we approach marijuana. I was proud to end the practice of charging simple marijuana possession cases when I became City Attorney and to sponsor I-502 two years later. Today we are taking another important step by moving to vacate past convictions for conduct that is now legal,” Holmes said.
“The mayor and I can speak for the City of Seattle, but we don’t speak for the rest of the state,” Holmes said. “I hope that in the next session, our example will lead the state to streamline the process for individuals with convictions across the state even if their prosecuting authorities have not taken the initiative.”
In January, the City of San Francisco announced a similar plan, affecting about 3,000 cases.
Arrests for possession of marijuana rose sharply in the 25-year period from 4,000 in 1986 to 11,000 in 2010, totaling 240,000 arrests, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
In Washington state, African Americans were arrested at 2.9 times the rate of whites. Latinos and Native Americans were arrested at 1.6 times the rate of whites, according to the city.
The state voted to legalize marijuana for people 21 and older in 2012 with the approval of Initiative 502.