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State Senate passes legislation to vacate misdemeanor marijuana convictions

This press release was provided by the Senate Democratic Caucus.

In an effort to align past sentencing with contemporary law, the Washington State Senate today passed legislation vacating misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions.

Although Washington legalized recreational use of marijuana in 2012, the initiative passed by voters did not address the issue of retroactively reviewing marijuana related sentences.

Sponsored by Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-White Center), Senate Bill 5605 would require a court to vacate such convictions upon request if the applicant was age 21 or older at the time of the offense.

“Just 10 short years ago, a conviction for marijuana possession had the potential to derail job prospects, impact access to housing, and put lives on hold — especially in communities of color that were disproportionately targeted and over policed,” said Nguyen. “Even though marijuana is legal today in Washington, the impacts of its prohibition still echo for far too many. With this legislation, we can begin to right the wrongs of the past.”

In January, Gov. Jay Inslee launched the Marijuana Justice Initiative, which allowed individuals with similar convictions the ability to petition for gubernatorial pardons. SB 5605 would allow the application to vacate sentences with any sentencing court, widening the availability of the option.

“The people of Washington have evolved on the issue of marijuana consumption and it’s time that our laws do the same,” said Nguyen. “I am thankful for the efforts by the governor, my colleagues in the Legislature, and all those who have been fighting to seek justice for individuals with these low-level convictions.”

SB 5605 passed on a bipartisan vote of 29-19 and now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.