Judges in Seattle have agreed to clear past misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession that were prosecuted before marijuana was legalized in Washington, reports the Seattle Times.
All seven judges of the Seattle Municipal Court have signed an order setting out a process for vacating the cases. The ruling follows City Attorney Pete Holmes’ filing of a motion in April asking the court to vacate the convictions.
In his motion, Holmes argued that possessing small amounts of marijuana is no longer illegal and clearing past convictions would right the injustices of a drug war that targeted people of color.
About 542 people could be affected. The ruling covers from about 1996 – when municipal courts, rather than county district courts, began handling those misdemeanors – to 2010 when Holmes became city attorney and stopped prosecuting low-level, non-violent marijuana cases.
“Insomuch as the conduct for which the defendant was convicted is no longer criminal, setting aside the conviction and dismissing the case serves the interests of justice,” wrote the judges in their ruling.
“For too many who call Seattle home, a misdemeanor marijuana conviction or charge has created barriers to opportunity — good jobs, housing, loans and education,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan in a public statement. “While we cannot reverse the harm that was done, we will continue to give Seattle residents a clean slate.”