Six years after marijuana became legal in Washington state, the city of Seattle will finally move to dismiss misdemeanor marijuana-possession convictions previously prosecuted by the city.
The announcement came in a Thursday statement from the office of Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes, who wrote that vacating the now irrelevant-convictions is an attempt at “restorative justice for the communities who have been disproportionately targeted by the criminal justice system and furthers the city’s commitment to eliminate racial disparities.” Those communities, of course, refer to people of color. Though studies show that white people in the state use weed more than black and Latinx people, the latter groups are far more likely to prosecuted:
“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 mayor’s office statement says. “In Washington state, African Americans were arrested at 2.9 times the rate of whites. Latinos and Native Americans were arrested at 1.6 times the rate of whites.”
Seattle has long been progressive in its pot laws. Minor possession has been the lowest enforcement priority since 2003; beginning in 2012, it became legal for adults over 21 to possess up to an ounce of weed.
It’s not clear how many people will be affected by the new policy, though the statement from Durkan and Holmes notes that a motion will be made on behalf of all those who are found eligible, and won’t require any action on the part of those convicted.