Inslee announces plan to pardon misdemeanor marijuana convictions

SEATAC, Wash. -- Gov. Jay Inslee will pardon thousands of people in Washington who have single, misdemeanor marijuana convictions on their record, a move he said will allow roughly 3,500 people to "move on with their lives" and lift barriers to employment, housing and more.

“We shouldn’t be punishing people for something that is no longer illegal in Washington state,” said Inslee, who announced the initiative today at the Cannabis Alliance’s annual conference. “Forgiving these convictions can help lessen their impact and allow people to move on with their lives. It’s a small step, but one that moves us in the direction of correcting these injustices.”

The governor's Marijuana Justice Initiative will grant clemency to people who have a single adult misdemeanor possession on their record. The conviction must have happened between Jan. 1, 1998 and Dec. 5, 2012, the date when marijuana possession was legalized in Washington.

Inslee's office highlighted the story of Tony Kurek, a recovering addict who is now a pastor and a pillar of his community. Kurek and his wife are involved in a nonprofit that helps homeless people in Kitsap County, but they spent more than a year homeless themselves and even lost their children for a short time. 

Kurek remembers being passed over for housing several times because of his marijuana conviction.

“I own my decisions,” Kurek said discussing his path. “But once we got into recovery we found it very difficult to shake the mistakes of my past.”

According to the governor's office, marijuana possession convictions disproportionately affect people of color. Although some of these convictions are more than a decade old, they still create barriers to housing, employment, student loans, credit scores and even the ability to participate in a child or grandchild’s school field trip. 

People who want a pardon from the governor can apply on the governor's office website and bypass the state Clemency and Pardoning Board. Click here for more information.