If you were caught with marijuana and convicted of possession before it became legal in Washington, you can relax: in May Governor Inslee signed SB 5605, which means anyone who was convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession may apply to have their record expunged.
Washington SB 5605
SB 5605 is part of Inslee's Marijuana Justice Initiative and will go into effect on July 28, 2019. It means that anyone who was 21 or older at the time they were convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession can apply to have their conviction record vacated. To do so, that person will have to apply to the court that sentenced them, and if there are multiple convictions from different courts, they will have to apply to each court separately.
As an example, if John was convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession in King, Snohomish, and Whatcom counties, he will have to apply to all three county district courts to have his records expunged. To also qualify for expungement, a person will have had to be convicted between January 1, 1998, and December 5, 2012. The governor's office says that records indicate about 3,500 people in Washington will be eligible for this new law.
Illinois HB 1438
Washington is not the only state to explore legislation that addresses criminal justice reform regarding drug laws. Last week the governor of Illinois signed HB 1438, which will make cannabis legal in 2020 and automatically expunge convictions of up to 30 grams. Anyone who had 30-500 grams may also apply for the automatic clemency but they will also have to petition the courts to vacate the conviction. This means roughly 770,000 cannabis-related convictions will be eligible to be vacated. Illinois also became the first state to legalize the commercial sale of recreational marijuana through its legislature.
Some cannabis advocates have long argued that as every state decriminalizes marijuana, there should be automatic expungement for misdemeanor marijuana convictions. When someone has a misdemeanor conviction on their records, it means they have to answer “yes” on any kind of application form that asks if they have ever been convicted. This can make it extremely difficult to get a job, find housing, or apply for college. Advocates at the Marijuana Policy Project have also pointed out that African Americans are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested and convicted for marijuana possession than Whites, and the impact of a conviction weighs heavier on blacks than it does whites.
Experienced Legal Counsel for Drug Possession
Attorney Steve Karimi provides effective legal representation for clients across Washington. He has many years defending against allegations that involve misdemeanor marijuana possession. If you or a loved one have a conviction record that you would like to expunge, contact his office today for a consultation at 206-621-8777.