City of Seattle moves to vacate misdemeanor marijuana cases

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Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, left, looks on as Mayor Jenny Durkan speaks at a news conference announcing plans for the city to move to vacate misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, in Seattle.

The state law legalizing the possession and recreational use of marijuana for adults ages 21 years or older was passed in 2012.

Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes are announcing the decision in a 10:00 a.m. news conference on Thursday.

Durkan also cited statistics from the Drug Policy Alliance.

Durkan said people's lives were ruined for misdemeanor marijuana offenses and the action would be a first step in putting progressive values into action. "Too many here in our community faced huge legal bills and fines, or had a harder time getting loans, apartments, and good-paying jobs".

In an op-ed published earlier in the day, the mayor said the "failed war on drugs" had a "clear racial bias and disproportionately targeted and impacted communities of color in our state". In Washington State, African Americans were arrested at 2.9 times the rate of whites.


Between 2000 and 2010 alone, more than 129,000 Washingtonians were arrested for simple possession of marijuana. Latinos and Native Americans were arrested at 1.6 times the rate of white people.

While minor marijuana possession has been a low priority for Seattle police since 2003, the city continued to charge for possession until Holmes took office as city attorney in 2010.

But Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego appear to be the only major jurisdictions erasing convictions en masse.

Unlike San Francisco which is moving to vacate misdemeanor and felony level convictions in the wake of statewide legalization, the Seattle effort is focused only on misdemeanor possession.

The plan was announced at a news conference Thursday.

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