Seattle follows in Spokane's footsteps to vacate old pot convictions


In an announcement Thursday, Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Planner Pete Holmes announced a plan to undo all misdemeanor convictions for anyone who was charged with marijuana possession from 1997 to 2010.

The process to get a misdemeanor marijuana possession convicted vacated starts with filling out a form with Spokane's Municipal Court at the Public Safety Building.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that she and the City Attorney will ask the municipal courts to vacate convictions and dismiss misdemeanor charges for marijuana possession. "They didn't get the job...they didn't get the apartment, and this is to make up for those past mistakes".

"I saw firsthand the 'war on drugs, ' including its devastating impacts on people, especially people of color and their families", Durkan, a former USA attorney, wrote in a guest editorial for The Stranger published Thursday morning. We must provide more effective alternatives to prosecution and incarceration through drug and mental health courts, restoring rights and supporting re-entry, said Durkan.

If implemented, Seattle will follow cities such as San Francisco, who have already dismissed over 3,000 misdemeanor marijuana convictions.

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"Marijuana possession arrests in Washington rose sharply in the 25 year period from 4,000 in 1986 to 11,000 in 2010, totaling 240,000 arrests, according to the Drug Policy Alliance", the statement says.

Prosecutors will review an additional 4,900 felony marijuana charges to decide if they should be reduced to misdemeanors, according to MyNorthwest.

The move would only apply to those who were at least 21-years-old at the time of their conviction, but officials estimate as many as 600 people could be cleared of charges. In Washington state, African Americans were arrested at 2.9 times the rate of whites during the first decade of this century.

Durkan said she hoped Seattle's plan will serve as a template for other cities seeking to correct the biases of outdated and punitive drug laws.