Seattle plans to vacate 600 misdemeanor marijuana convictions; man shares his struggles

SEATTLE .– Seattle city leaders made a major announcement Thursday that could impact the lives of more than 600 people with misdemeanor marijuana convictions.

The mayor and the city attorney say it’s a restorative justice project that could wipe away those convictions for small possession charges.  Seattle joins two other western cities in making the unprecedented move that could have national implications.

“I was going home. It was maybe like 2 o’clock in the morning.  The police officer found a pipe and a really small amount of marijuana,” said Craig, who describes being arrested on Christmas Eve 2004.

He had less than an eighth of marijuana in a pipe.  That conviction and the stigma that surrounds marijuana users is why Craig doesn’t want to show his face.

“If we were doing a story on alcohol or something, it's weird, I would feel more inclined to have my face present,” said Craig.

But because Craig says marijuana still carries a bad reputation, he’d rather not share his identity.  That conviction 13 years ago came back to haunt him just recently when he applied for a government job.

“Hey, we found a paraphernalia charge and possession charge from back in 2003 and you didn’t disclose that under your personal history. I said I totally forgot and that was 13 years ago I don’t think that should affect whether or not I’m going to be a good employee at this point in my life,” said Craig.

But 13 years later, that misdemeanor charge disqualified him for that job.

“It could be a barrier to housing, to getting credit, to getting good jobs, and an education,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.

It’s why Durkan and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes made a big announcement with plans to vacate and dismiss misdemeanor marijuana charges for about 600 people.

“While we cannot reverse all the harm that was done, we can give back to those people a record that says they were not convicted,” said Durkan.

Durkan admits the war on drugs did more harm than good by filling up jail cells and marring people for life.

Craig is still on the hunt to prove he’s not the same 23-year-old who broke the law.

“It is definitely a shadow it is a little thing there and I just want to wipe it away. It doesn’t need to be there anymore,” said Craig.

The city plans to set up a website by early next week where people can go and see if their case is up for vacation.  First, the courts would have to agree to the plan.  A state bill that would’ve provided individuals a way to streamline this process failed in the Legislature last session.