Seattle Files Motion to Vacate Marijuana Convictions — Will Other Cities Follow Suit?

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Seattle Marijuana Convictions
The motion will also seek to protect undocumented immigrants who have their convictions thrown out. (Photo by Elaine Thompson/The Associated Press.)

Seattle officials have a filed a motion to vacate all convictions and dismiss all charges for marijuana possession for anyone prosecuted by the city between 1997 and 2010, the city announced last Friday.

According to a press release, the proposed move would impact approximately 542 people who have marijuana convictions on their records. The motion also seeks protections against federal consequences for undocumented immigrants who have their convictions tossed out.

“Vacating charges for misdemeanor marijuana possession is a necessary step to correct the injustices of what was a failed war on drugs, which disproportionately affected communities of color in Seattle,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement.

“…The war on drugs in large part became a war on people who needed opportunity and treatment,” Durkan continued. “While we cannot reverse all the harm that was done, we must do our part to give Seattle residents – including immigrants and refugees – a clean slate.”

In her statement, the mayor also noted how marijuana policies can prove consequential for undocumented immigrant communities living in Washington state. Durkan argued that drug convictions can become roadblocks on to the path to citizenship, and could possibly lead to worse: deportation.

In 2012, Washington residents voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Seattle’s move to clear decades of past marijuana convictions comes on the heels of a similar move by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who dropped dozens of criminal charges for cannabis possession and announced he would no longer pursue charges in such cases, The Hill reported.

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said he hopes the courts will also choose to clear similar charges.

“As we see marijuana sold in retail storefronts today, people who simply had a joint in their pocket a decade ago still have a red mark on their records,” Holme said in a statement. “It is long past time we remedy the drug policies of yesteryear — and this is one small step to right the injustices of a drug war that has primarily targeted people of color.”

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