WA Governor - Engagement - Washington State Cannabis Summit
(January 4, 2019) - Summary

The governor's pardon program expedites the process of applying for and receiving clemency for a limited class of misdemeanor possession convictions.

Here are some observations from Governor Jay Inslee’s address on Friday January 4th at the Washington State Cannabis Summit hosted by The Cannabis Alliance.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • Governor Inslee announced the Marijuana Justice Initiative, a special pardon program for state misdemeanor cannabis convictions operated by his office (audio – 9m, video).
    • Governor Inslee’s description of the problem: “…we still have an injustice today that thousands of people have on their records a criminal conviction for something that is legal today. And this is impairing their ability to reach their dreams and live their lives and raise their children.” He elaborated, “…in itself having a criminal convictions on your record is just not a healthy thing for people. So I’m here today to say that we should not be punishing people for something that is no longer an illegal behavior in the state of Washington. And it is time to end marijuana injustice in the state of Washington. And it is the right thing to do because a simple possession conviction 20 years ago should not be a life sentence for a Washingtonian.”
    • The Initiative website, launched that morning, states: “Inslee believes that forgiving these convictions will allow people to move on with their lives without these convictions causing additional burdens on people, their families, their employers and their communities. This is a small step, but one that moves us in the direction of correcting injustices that disproportionately affected communities of color. A successful pardon of a marijuana possession conviction can assist with barriers to housing, employment and education.”
    • Inslee described the criteria to qualify for the Initiative’s expedited clemency process: “Essentially if you had a simple possession marijuana conviction on your record going back to 1998, you’ll be able to use this expedited process. You won’t need a lawyer to fill out this petition. You just need to fill out this petition. You won’t need to go to court. You won’t need to wait months in response. You’ll simply need to go to our online process and fill out a short form. And if you meet the simple criteria, which is that this is your only misdemeanor conviction and it happened under Washington State law, I will pardon the simple marijuana possession from your record and it will be removed.”
    • The governor’s pardon powers come from Article III, Section 9 of the state constitution. Other pardon powers are found in 10.01.120 RCW. Information on Pardons, Reprieves, and Commutations from the Washington State Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is available here.
  • How the Marijuana Justice Initiative process works:
    • Individuals complete a form on the Initiative website including basic information about themselves, the jurisdiction, case number, and date of the conviction. The conviction must be in Washington between January 1, 1998 and December 5, 2012, when I-502 legalized cannabis possession.
    • The governor’s office validates the information submitted with the Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC).
    • Qualified persons receive an “individualized clemency order” from the Office of Governor Jay Inslee. The court clerk in the jurisdiction where the conviction occurred and the State Patrol are also issued copies of the order.
    • The website notes the limits of a pardon: “A pardoned offense will, however, remain on a separate criminal history available to law enforcement and others who are entitled to non-conviction data under Chapter 10.97 RCW. Pardons do not automatically remove the conviction record from court files and they do not grant petitioners the legal authority to state that they have never been convicted of a crime on applications for employment. Petitioners may, however, indicate that they have received a pardon from the governor. Petitioners may seek to have a conviction vacated, but that would require petitioners to seek relief from the court that entered the conviction.”
    • The website warns those applying that while petitions will be handled in the order they’re received, “We expect a significant number of applications, so processing may take weeks. Please be patient.”
    • If a cannabis conviction doesn’t meet the criteria of the Initiative, but occured in Washington state, an individual can still utilize the governor’s Pardons and Clemency Board.
    • The Initiative website includes resources to help locate records:
  • Further steps in erasing cannabis convictions are underway, some with Governor Inslee’s endorsement.