Tony Kurek has been in recovery from drug addiction for 13 years. Today, he is a pastor and a pillar of his community. He and his wife are deeply involved with helping the homeless in Kitsap County, even opening up a nonprofit house for poor and low-income women and men. But years ago, Kurek’s life was a world away. He was abusing marijuana, methamphetamines, cocaine and other drugs. He struggled for over a decade with addiction, and in his early thirties was charged and convicted with a misdemeanor for marijuana possession.
Kurek and his wife fought for years to get their life on track. The stigma of his drug conviction followed them at every turn. He describes his misdemeanor as a bag of rocks tied around him.
“I own my decisions,” Kurek said discussing his path. “But once we got into recovery we found it very difficult to shake the mistakes of my past.”
As they worked toward getting back on their feet, Kurek and his wife found themselves homeless for over a year. They had opportunities to move into different places but the landlords would pass them over due to the conviction. They struggled to find work and even lost their children for a period of time.
The behavior that landed Kurek with criminal prosecution is no longer considered a crime in Washington. Although he admits he made a lot of mistakes, possessing a small amount of marijuana for personal use is no longer illegal for adults within this state.
Today Gov. Jay Inslee announced his Marijuana Justice Initiative to provide pardons for certain individuals who have convictions on their record for misdemeanor marijuana possession.
“We shouldn’t be punishing people for something that is no longer illegal in Washington state,” said Inslee, who announced the initiative today at the Cannabis Alliance’s annual conference. “Forgiving these convictions can help lessen their impact and allow people to move on with their lives. It’s a small step, but one that moves us in the direction of correcting these injustices.”
Read the full story on the governor’s Medium page.