People busted for small-time pot possession get a break from state Legislature

OLYMPIA — About 69,000 convictions for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in Washington would be wiped out under a bill that both chambers of the Washington state Legislature have approved.

The House voted 69-29 Tuesday to approve SB 5605, which would require the sentencing court to vacate a conviction for misdemeanor marijuana possession if the person applying was 21 or older at the time of the offense. The bill returns to the Senate for agreement with a House amendment and then moves to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.

“This proved you can do transformative justice reform issues and it’s a bipartisan thing,” said the bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Joe Nguyen, D-White Center. “Our unjust laws of the past shouldn’t hold you back from being successful in the future.”

The State Patrol has said 58,864 individuals with 68,543 misdemeanor marijuana convictions would be eligible to have them cleared.

People whose convictions are cleared then would be able to write on employment or housing applications that they never have been convicted of that offense.

The House Appropriations Committee amended the bill earlier this month to clarify that it also applies to misdemeanor marijuana possession offenses charged under municipal ordinances as well as state law.

— The News Tribune