Individuals in Washington who have been convicted of misdemeanor charges for possessing marijuana may soon have those charges removed from their criminal record if a recently proposed bill is passed.
The proposed bill would remove all misdemeanor convictions of marijuana possession up to 40 grams in Washington. Felony charges for marijuana possession of more than 40 grams are not included in the proposed bill and would remain on an individual's criminal record.
The bill was proposed after the state passed Initiative 502, which made it legal for people in Washington to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. After the initiative was passed, many prosecutors in the state dismissed pending misdemeanor charges for marijuana possession because it was now legal to possess small amounts of marijuana.
The lawmaker who proposed the bill said that removing misdemeanor convictions of marijuana from previous offenders' records will help previous offenders escape the stigma of having a drug charge on their criminal record.
While misdemeanor marijuana possession charges may not seem that significant, charges can have very negative consequences on an offender's life. The charges on their criminal record can impact a person's ability to find work, housing, going to college and even opening bank accounts.
Currently, there is a way for individuals convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession charges to try and remove the charge from their criminal record but it is not a simple process. Individuals can try and have their misdemeanor charges vacated from their criminal record but the decision is up to a judge.
The lawmaker who proposed the bill said that the bill would make the process of vacating the misdemeanor charge much simpler and easier for those convicted. The proposed bill would not depend on each individual judge's decision. Instead, judges would have to vacate misdemeanor charges for marijuana possession.
If the bill is passed, it would impact many people in Washington. The Marijuana Arrest Research Project reported that from 1986 to 2010, more than 240,000 arrests were made for marijuana possession of less than 40 grams, which would be misdemeanor charges if the offenders were convicted.
Source: The Western Front, "Weed crimes waived? State could forgive pot misdemeanors," Katy Bentz, March 1, 2013
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