The governor of Washington state on Friday introduced the “Marijuana Justice Initiative,” a plan designed to allow a few thousand eligible individuals who have single misdemeanor possession convictions to apply for clemency.
The initiative, which Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee unveiled at a cannabis industry conference, comes several years after adult use of the drug was made legal in Washington.
The plan will permit the estimated 3,500 eligible people to make the pardon request through an expedited process online, Inslee’s office said in a statement.
“In Washington state, it is no longer considered criminal behavior for adults to possess a small amount of marijuana for personal use,” the statement said. “The governor’s Marijuana Justice Initiative intends to recognize the evolution of the state’s beliefs about marijuana and, within existing capacity, provide clemency relief to some who have these convictions on their records.”
The process is open to individuals who have “a single misdemeanor conviction on their criminal record for adult marijuana possession” and were prosecuted in the state, the governor’s office said.
There is also a requirement that the conviction must have taken place between Jan. 1, 1998 and Dec. 5, 2012, according to the statement. “Records indicate that roughly 3,500 individuals are eligible under this initiative,” it added.
The website provided a form for those eligible to apply.
People who’ve lived with such convictions on their records have been hampered as a result, Inslee argued.
"We have people who have this burden on their shoulders from a simple, one-time marijuana possession from maybe 20 years ago, and that's impeding the ability of people to live their lives," Inslee said in an interview, according to The Associated Press. "It can damage their ability to get financing for a home; it can damage their ability to get financing for colleges, even simple things like going on a field trip with your kids.
“We should not be punishing people for something that is no longer illegal,” he said.
Inslee made a similar pitch on Twitter, where he added: “It is time to end marijuana injustice in our state.”
Several states allow for expunging or sealing marijuana convictions, but obtaining such relief has typically been onerous, requiring a lawyer or court appearances, The Associated Press noted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.