Jared Polis just pardoned over 2,700 cannabis convictions throughout Colorado, in sweeping executive order

Jared Polis just pardoned over 2,700 cannabis convictions throughout Colorado, in sweeping executive order

“Cleaning up some of the inequities of the past.”

VicesOctober 01, 2020 By Will Brendza

The power to pardon people of past convictions is not one that’s often used like a blanket and thrown over a swathe of the population. Generally, the power to pardon criminal convictions is reserved for exceptional and individual cases.

But in the case of cannabis convictions in Colorado, there are thousands of people who have dark marks on their record from cannabis crimes prior to in the prohibition era. Marks that follow them around like an ugly specter: preventing them from getting jobs, applying for federal benefits and from getting certain loans. Even after weed was legalized recreationally in 2012, if you had a cannabis conviction on your record in Colorado, it stayed there. 

That’s starting to change now. In June, Colorado’s governor, Jared Polis signed a bill into law that gave him the power to pardon people convicted of cannabis crimes en mass. HB-1424 is one of the most progressive cannabis justice bills ever passed in this state.

On Thursday October 1st that bill went into effect, and Polis mass pardoned some 2,732 Coloradans throughout the state of cannabis convictions.

“It’s ridiculous how being written up for smoking a joint in the 1970’s has followed some Coloradans throughout their lives and gotten in the way of their success,” Polis wrote in a statement. “Too many Coloradans have been followed their entire lives by a conviction for something that is no longer a crime, and these convictions have impacted their job status, housing and countless other areas of their lives.”

The 2,732 pardons were all for petty offenses, misdemeanors and felonies related to cannabis crimes. It’s a historic step for both the acceptance of cannabis as a medicine, and for equity in the cannabis industry. These felonies acted as a barrier of entry for many minorities who would have otherwise leapt into the legal cannabis business — because in Colorado, a felony on your record prevented you from working in cannabis for 10 years (that’s since been reduced to five years).

Because many minority communities suffered disproportionately from America’s failed War on Drugs, many minority community members had felonies on their record that kept them from entering cannabis at all.

Governor Polis said that HB-1424 was, “Cleaning up some of the inequities of the past.”

People with past cannabis convictions, who are curious if they were issued a pardon can check on the Colorado Bureau of Investigation website.