Lawmakers on Friday considered whether adults will be able to have misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession thrown out if they were over 21 at the time of the offense.
The House’s Public Safety Committee began weighing a bill by Democratic legislators that would allow misdemeanor convictions for possessing 40 grams or less of marijuana to be set aside and dismissed. If it passes, the process to clear records would be different from the way other misdemeanors are expunged. Unlike those cases, a marijuana offender wouldn’t have to wait three years after completing the sentence to get the conviction wiped off the record.
The bill would erase past criminal convictions for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Voters passed Initiative 502 in 2012, which legalized the sale and recreational use of pot in Washington state.
“The voters spoke,” Thurston County public defender Alex Frix told the panel Friday. “It is patently unfair to continue to punish people with the stain of a conviction for possessing a now-legal substance, period.”
The committee had no questions for Frix, who was the only speaker on the bill. An identical bill introduced in 2013 never made it to the House floor for a vote.
At the same hearing, another bill by Democratic legislators to lessen the penalty for possession of small amounts of all drugs and make possession charges misdemeanors also received some discussion, but even one of that bill’s sponsors took a pessimistic view of its chances.
“We probably won’t get it through this year,” said Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo. “You know, we’re planting the seeds.”
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