Weed legal states are finally pardoning 'criminals' for past marijuana offenses

Weed legal states are finally pardoning 'criminals' for past marijuana offenses

VicesFebruary 09, 2018 By Will Brendza

They were arrested for non-violent cannabis offenses. They lost their freedom and years of their lives for selling, or even just having, weed on them — a substance now legally sold in stores on corners right next to Jazzercise and cook-yourself pizzas.

If it sounds unfair — unjust — that’s because it is. Yet now weed-legal states are taking notice. They're being forgiven. 

Just a few days ago, Seattle’s mayor Jenny Durkan announced the city would be looking to clear criminal records for people with misdemeanor convictions for pot possession.

"For thousands of people in Washington state, a misdemeanor marijuana conviction had huge implications: It could be a barrier to housing, to getting credit, to getting good jobs and education," she told a news conference. "It is a necessary step to right the wrongs of what was a failed war on drugs."

And a week before that, San Francisco and San Diego said the same thingnow that we sell it legally, what good do these convictions even do?

Now following in their footsteps, Colorado’s governor is finally — after years — taking appropriate measures to remedy that injustice, too, by pardoning these “criminals” for their “crimes” (or at least considering it).

In Hickenlooper’s case, 40 inmates, all in prison for mild marijuana offenses, have been singled out by his administration. A team of lawyers is currently reviewing those inmates’ cases, and with a little luck (and a record of good behavior behind bars) they will be invited by the state to apply for clemency.

“If what these people are serving serious time for, wasn’t violent — is no longer illegal — maybe we should be looking at (whether) it is safe to release them,” Hickenloper told The Denver Post.

But 40 inmates is just the tip of the iceberg for a place like Colorado — merely a drop in the bucket when it comes to how many people are rotting away in jail for minor marijuana convictions in the U.S. Even still, over half a million people are going to jail for cannabis related, non-violent crimes every year.

But the levee is cracking. And it’s only a matter of time before it breaks.

What’s more telling, is that Colorado’s governor wasn’t always a cannabis friendly politician. In fact, when the state voted to legalize pot recreationally, he called the decision “reckless.”

If he can change, so can others. But there's more at stake here for him, Hickenloper is actually killing two birds with a single stone.  

Yes, in pardoning these non-violent criminals he is, by all measures, doing the right thing. That’s good for his political image. But it is also a financially savvy initiative for the state. Why waste good jail space and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars annually just to keep a bunch of non-violent stoners locked up?

Maybe that made sense to Nixon and Raegan, who wanted to imprison their political opposition. And surely, it makes sense to Jeff Sessions. But, by in large, to The People, keeping non-violent cannabis “criminals” in prison, despite its legalization, is a ridiculous way to blow public resources out the Federal government’s puckered asshole.  

[cover photo by Smoke & Vibe on Unsplash]