Following an announcement by Mayor Jenny Durkan in February, today the Seattle City Attorney filed a motion with the Seattle Municipal Court to vacate roughly 500 misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions between 1996 and 2010.
The motion from City Attorney Pete Holmes explicitly acknowledges the racial disproportionality of these convictions, citing an ACLU report showing that African Americans are more than three times more likely to be arrested for pot possession than whites, despite equivalent rates of use.
“As we see marijuana sold in retail storefronts today, people who simply had a joint in their pocket a decade ago still have a red mark on their records,” Holmes said in a statement. “It’s long past time we remedy the drug policies of yesteryear, and this is one small step to right the injustices of a drug war that has primarily targeted people of color. I’m hopeful the court will choose to clear these charges.”
Misdemeanor pot convictions have not only affected people’s ability to find work or homes, but have also affected undocumented people who face the threat of deportation for a criminal mark on their records. For that reason, the city’s motion also argues that the vacated convictions be recognized by federal immigration authorities.
This is something that Democratic controlled cites and states can, and should, be doing.