Seattle Courts to Clear Charges, Convictions for Pre-Legalization Marijuana Misdemeanors

Municipal court judges in Seattle, Washington, have agreed to vacate misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions that were prosecuted before the legalization of cannabis. The judges’ decision could affect up to 542 defendants in cases prosecuted between 1996 and 2010.

Earlier this month, the judges issued an order outlining a process to clear the records of those with misdemeanor possession convictions.

“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,” the judges wrote.

The judges directed the city attorney’s office to provide the court with the last known address of the 542 defendants, who will be notified of the intention to clear their records. The defendants will have the opportunity to object and ask the court for an individualized ruling instead.

City Attorney Pete Holmes said after the order that Seattle should “take a moment to recognize the significance” of the court’s decision, according to media reports.

“We’ve come a long way, and I hope this action inspires other jurisdictions to follow suit,” Holmes added.

Mayor Jenny Durkan said the move has the potential to improve the lives of those with past convictions.


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