Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes announced today that the City has filed a motion with Seattle Municipal Court asking the court to vacate convictions and dismiss charges for marijuana possession for people who were prosecuted by the City of Seattle from 1997 to 2010. If approved by the court, 542 people convicted of marijuana possession will have their records affected. Holmes stopped charging for marijuana possession when he became City Attorney in 2010.
Since Mayor Durkan and City Attorney Holmes announced their intention to the court to vacate the convictions, the City Attorney’s office has engaged with public defenders and immigrant advocates to ensure protection for non-citizens. This motion includes language seeking additional protection against negative federal immigration consequences for non-citizens who have their marijuana conviction vacated.
“Vacating charges for misdemeanor marijuana possession is a necessary step to correct the injustices of what was a failed war on drugs, which disproportionately affected communities of color in Seattle,” said Mayor Durkan. “The war on drugs in large part became a war on people who needed opportunity and treatment. While we cannot reverse all the harm that was done, we must do our part to give Seattle residents – including immigrants and refugees – a clean slate. Noncitizens have also been unduly burdened by these convictions, which can provide a roadblock to gaining citizenship, or in the worst case, can initiate deportation proceedings. Today wouldn’t be possible without the leadership of City Attorney Holmes, who has been a strong voice for ending this injustice. I want to acknowledge that we would not be here today without the advocacy many other members of our community who have been fighting for restorative justice.”
“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,” said City Attorney Holmes. “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.”
Lorinda Youngscourt, Director of the King County Department of Public Defense said, “The City’s Motion is a small but meaningful step in reducing the harm the war on drugs has caused communities of color. That harm is ongoing. Racially disparate policing, filing decisions, and sentencing decisions perpetuate the mass incarceration of communities of color. Further, the City’s Motion recognizes and ameliorates the likelihood that non-citizens who plead guilty or proceeded to trial on marijuana possession cases from 1996-2010 may not have received constitutionally sufficient legal advice from their attorneys under the requirements of current case law.”
Members of the public can confirm whether they have a misdemeanor marijuana possession conviction by visiting the Seattle Municipal Court’s portal. Any members of the public who need clarification on their marijuana possession conviction may call the Seattle Municipal Court at (206) 684-5600. Today’s filing with the Seattle Municipal Court is available here.