Every judge on Seattle’s municipal court agreed this week to vacate over 500 convictions from 1996 to 210 for misdemeanor marijuana possession.
The seven judges agreed that the convictions had dis-proportionally impacted people of color.
Of the over 500 cases cited, 46% involved African-American defendants, the judges said in their ruling. The ruling found that vacating the convictions “serves the interests of justice.”
According to US Census data, as of last July, African Americans only made up 7% of Seattle’s population.
Over people in Seattle will see their marijuana-related convictions set aside if they were prosecuted before the state of Washington legalized weed back in 2012.
Mayor Jenny Durkan stated, “We’ve taken another important step to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs, and to build true economic opportunity for all. While we cannot reverse all the harm that was done, we will continue to act to give Seattle residents — including immigrants and refugees — a clean slate.”
“Dismissing this charge reflects Seattle’s values and recognizes the negative collateral consequences of a drug conviction, including difficulty in finding employment or getting into college or the military, obtaining student loans or government subsidized housing qualifying for food stamps or other government assistance, being allowed entry into some foreign countries and obtaining child custody or adoption,” the motion stated.
“We’ve come a long way, and I hope this action inspires other jurisdictions to follow suit,” said City Attorney Pete Holmes.
Washington’s Initiative 502 legalized and regulated the production, possession and distribution of cannabis for people who were 21 and older.