Washington Governor Signs Bill to Expunge Cannabis Convictions

The possibility of expunging cannabis convictions in the U.S. has been a popular topic this year for many legalized states for months. Now the state of Washington can join the ranks of states whose legislators have agreed to pursue expungement programs.

On May 13, Gov. Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5605, which will allow low-level cannabis convictions to be removed from a person’s permanent record. “Every person convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana offenses, who was 21 years of age or older at the time of the offense, may apply to the sentencing court for a vacation of the applicant’s record of conviction for the offense . . . If an applicant qualifies under this subsection, the court shall vacate the record of conviction,” the bill text states.

The law will take effect 90 days after this year’s legislative session ended on April 28, and should go live starting July 27. Going forward, those whose convictions are removed will no longer be required to make that history known to employment or housing applications. Advocates of expungement have long believed that it causes a “major barrier” for people trying to recover from the damage to their permanent records, often causing an increase in unemployment and homelessness.

“This is a matter of fairness and justice,” Gov. Inslee said. “We should not be punishing people for something that is no longer illegal in this state.” With this new process, applicants may apply to receive a pardon for a single conviction. However multiple convictions on a single record make expungement less likely.

Cities in California, such as San Francisco also approved expungement efforts back in February. Earlier this year the mayor of Denver, Colorado also announced plans to pursue erasing convictions as well. Even cities such as Portland, Oregon have discussed the future of cannabis record crimes in the past. With positive movement forward, soon citizens across the country will one day have the option to free themselves of cannabis convictions on their record.

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