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Washington state Senate candidate wants amnesty for past marijuana offenders

A candidate running for Washington state Senate says if elected, she wants to propose an amnesty bill for past weed offenders. (AP Photo/Ermindo Armino)

A candidate running for Washington state Senate says if elected, she wants to propose an amnesty bill for past marijuana offenders.

Sarina Forbes, a Republican campaigning in the 36th district, joined KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz to discuss the potential bill.

Forbes says the bill would probably be modeled after a bill previously proposed by Democratic Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon and would essentially remove low-level marijuana crimes from people’s records.

Rantz tells Forbes he understands the spirit of the bill, but finds the message it sends troubling.

“These folks violated the law on the books at the time, and no matter how much you and I disagree with the law, we sometimes have to follow the law,” he says. “Why would we give them a pass if they knowingly broke a law at the time?”

Forbes says her initial response to the idea was similar to Jason’s, but she ultimately decided these people have paid their debt to society.

“They have resolved their issue in one way, shape or form. Either they have paid a fine or maybe done volunteer service, but they have done their restitution, and in our society, once you have paid your restitution, that should be enough. It shouldn’t be held forever against you.”

But Rantz suggests that having the crime continue to appear on your record is part of the punishment for the crime. “We see folks who eventually get out of jail but they don’t see their record expunged.”

Forbes says there are actually means to appeal to get your crimes removed from your record. “There is a process that one can go through, application to get your record expunged for a variety of reasons.”

Rantz thinks that passing a bill like this could have bad implications for how seriously people will take current laws, including regulations that still exist surrounding marijuana.

“What if someone wants to smoke weed outdoors, in public, at a park somewhere, why should they get busted if maybe they’re of the opinion that down the line there may be some sort of shift in the way people feel about marijuana?” he says. “Why should they follow it [the law] now if they can simply say down the line I might get an amnesty bill?”

Regardless of her intention to propose this bill, Forbes says people should be following all laws as they currently stand, including those regarding marijuana.

“We must abide by the rule of law as it is now and they [a person who wants to smoke outdoors] must take the risk of enjoying that particular substance knowing they are breaking the existing law. If that is a risk they are willing to take, they must also pay the penalty and the cost.”

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