In Washington state, it is no longer considered criminal behavior for adults to possess a small amount of marijuana for personal use. The governor’s Marijuana Justice Initiative intends to recognize the evolution of the state’s beliefs about marijuana and, within existing capacity, provide clemency relief to some who have these convictions on their records. The Initiative will provide an expedited process to grant pardons to people with a single misdemeanor conviction on their criminal record for adult marijuana possession prosecuted under Washington state law.
For decades, people have faced criminal prosecution for behavior that is no longer considered a crime in Washington. Inslee believes that forgiving these convictions will allow people to move on with their lives without these convictions causing additional burdens on people, their families, their employers and their communities. This is a small step, but one that moves us in the direction of correcting injustices that disproportionately affected communities of color. A successful pardon of a marijuana possession conviction can assist with barriers to housing, employment and education.
Under this Initiative, Inslee will exercise his constitutional clemency authority to pardon individuals who have a single conviction on their criminal record. That sole conviction must be for adult (21+) misdemeanor marijuana possession, prosecuted under state law in Washington. The conviction must have occurred between January 1, 1998 and December 5, 2012, when I-502 legalized marijuana possession. Records indicate that roughly 3,500 individuals are eligible under this Initiative.
Those interested in requesting a pardon must complete the online petition form below and submit it to the Office of the Governor. This will officially start the request for a pardon of the conviction.
VIDEO: Inslee announces Marijuana Justice Initiative at 2019 Washington Cannabis Summit
New law allows individuals to vacate multiple marijuana offense convictions
On May 13, 2019, Governor Inslee signed SB 5605, Concerning Marijuana Offense Convictions. This new law goes into effect on July 28, 2019. Beginning that date, every person convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession offenses in Washington, who was 21 years of age or older at the time of the offense, may apply to the sentencing court to vacate his or her conviction record for the marijuana offense. This means that if, for example, the marijuana conviction occurred in Cowlitz County District Court, the individual will need to apply for the vacation in Cowlitz County District Court. And if an individual has multiple marijuana convictions from different courts, then the individual will need to apply to vacate each conviction separately in the court in which the conviction was prosecuted. The court will then vacate that qualifying individual’s marijuana conviction record.
Washington State Courts has resources for individuals who want to apply to vacate their record, including information about the process for vacating convictions, a downloadable vacation application form (CrRLJ 09.0100) and a directory of courts.
While the governor’s initiative expedites pardons for individuals with a single marijuana misdemeanor prosecuted under state law as 21+ adults between January 1, 1998 and December 5, 2012, this new law allows individuals to vacate one or more marijuana possession misdemeanors regardless of when the offense occurred or whether the conviction was under state or local jurisdiction.
What happens after I submit my petition?
After you submit your petition, the governor’s office will review your materials and compare the information against data from the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) to confirm whether you are eligible for a pardon through the Marijuana Justice Initiative. If you qualify, your petition will be processed in the order in which it was received. If you are confirmed in AOC’s records to be eligible for relief through the Initiative, then the governor will issue you a pardon, forgiving you for the marijuana conviction.
If you cannot be confirmed to be eligible for relief through the Marijuana Justice Initiative, you will be directed to consider seeking clemency through the standard Clemency and Pardons Board channel.
I would like to apply for clemency and I think I qualify for it. Where can I find my case information?
If you do not know your case number or other case information, you can search for it online for free using these online resources:
- Washington Courts’ search page. Most cases will be found at this website, as misdemeanors are filed in district and municipal courts, not superior courts.
- Odyssey Portal. Use the Odyssey Portal when searching superior court records for the following courts: Asotin, Clallam, Clark, Columbia, Cowlitz, Franklin, Garfield, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, Kitsap, Klickitat, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, San Juan, Skagit, Skamania, Snohomish, Spokane, Thurston, Wahkiakum, Whatcom, Whitman and Yakima counties' superior courts.
- Request a criminal history report. If you are unable to find your case information on the above databases, you can request a criminal history report from the Washington State Patrol for $12. This criminal history report will include case information.
How long should the pardon process take?
After your petition is received, the governor’s office will review your materials, and confirm whether you qualify for a pardon under the policies of this clemency program. If you qualify, your petition will be processed in the order in which it was received. We expect a significant number of applications, so processing may take weeks. Please be patient. Once we have processed your petition, you will receive an individualized clemency order in the mail. We will also notify the Washington State Patrol and the sentencing court clerk’s office that you received a pardon.
How will a governor’s pardon affect my criminal history?
The governor’s office will ask the Washington State Patrol to remove pardoned convictions from your criminal history report that is available to the public. A pardoned offense will, however, remain on a separate criminal history available to law enforcement and others who are entitled to non-conviction data under Chapter 10.97 RCW. Pardons do not automatically remove the conviction record from court files and they do not grant petitioners the legal authority to state that they have never been convicted of a crime on applications for employment. Petitioners may, however, indicate that they have received a pardon from the governor. Petitioners may seek to have a conviction vacated, but that would require petitioners to seek relief from the court that entered the conviction.
Is a pardon the same as vacating or sealing my criminal conviction?
No, a pardon is not the same as vacating or sealing a criminal conviction. A pardon is simply an official act of the governor forgiving a conviction.