A recent trend in a few states with legal cannabis is to address the large number of minor cannabis charges that have been attached to many consumers’ records. Seattle, Washington is the next city to jump on the bandwagon, and is making plans to vacate many of these cannabis charges.
The Stranger reports that in line with a February announcement from Mayor Jenny Durkan, the Seattle City Attorney filed a motion with the Seattle Municipal Court to vacate prior cannabis charges. This could affect up to 500 misdemeanor cannabis-related charges between the years of 1996 and 2010.
City Attorney Pete Holmes also specifically mentioned the racial disparity of cannabis arrests in his motion, discussing how people of color are statistically much more likely to be arrested than white people—despite having similar consumption rates. “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,” Holmes said in a statement. “It’s 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. I’m hopeful the court will choose to clear these charges.”
To go one step further towards inclusion, city officials also believe that undocumented persons were unfairly targeted if they were arrested for cannabis, as they may not have been aware of their rights. Undocumented defendants now have a right to seek council with an attorney according to the Supreme Court, but up until 2010, they did not. This is why charges from before that year are specifically being forgiven.
This is not a surprising turn of events, given the fact that cities like Philadelphia have already made similar moves and that Seattle has always been open and welcoming about topics like access to cannabis and home growing. It is another positive step for a city that is already making history with lenient cannabis laws.