Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed an executive order that pardoned 2,732 people with low-level cannabis convictions in the state.
House Bill 1424, passed earlier this year, allows the governor to pardon those with convictions on their records for possession of cannabis up to two ounces, the current legal limit for medical cannabis users. However, Polis’ pardon will only apply to convictions up to one ounce of cannabis, the legal limit for recreational use. The bill also seeks to emphasize social equity in cannabis licensing by giving minorities increased access to Colorado’s cannabis industry.
Pardons were granted to those with petty offenses, misdemeanors and felonies. People who were convicted do not need to apply for the pardon, a contrast to other programs that were launched in the state. Polis said those with minor cannabis convictions could have trouble getting things like jobs and student loans.
“Too many Coloradans have been followed their entire lives by a conviction for something that is no longer a crime, and these convictions have impacted their job status, housing, and countless other areas of their lives,” Polis said. “Today we are taking this step toward creating a more just system and breaking down barriers to help transform people’s lives as well as coming to terms with one aspect of the past, failed policy of marijuana prohibition.”
The pardon won’t expunge records related to the convictions but would remove the conviction from the individual’s record, meaning it wouldn’t show up during a background check by a member of the public. The conviction still shows up during a law enforcement background check, but with a note about the pardon.
Other states have worked to clear low-level cannabis convictions from criminal records. North Dakota pardoned 26 people at the end of last year after 32 had applied to be pardoned. Officials in Los Angeles plan to use technology to clear as many as 66,000 cannabis convictions.