A seven-judge panel in Seattle’s court system unanimously voted to vacate over 500 misdemeanor marijuana convictions. These convictions were dated back as far as 1996 and as recent as 2010. The panel noted a disproportionate impact on persons of color.
It was determined that 46% of the convictions to be vacated involved an African American person, CNN reported. The judges concluded that vacating these convictions “serves the interests of justice”. It is expected that the convictions will be vacated by mid-November. Those that receive notices regarding the previous convictions have the opportunity to object or ask for proof. If no response is received, the conviction automatically becomes vacated.
An additional breakdown of the convictions to be vacated is as follows:
- 46% White
- 3% Asian
- 3% Native American
- 2% Unknown Descent
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said, “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.”
Seattle worked quickly to approve the motion to vacate these convictions. The request was only received in April.
The initial motion read, in part, “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.”
Seattle Attorney Pete Holmes said, “We’ve come a long way, and I hope this action inspires other jurisdictions to follow suit.”