As of Sunday, July 28, many people with misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor marijuana convictions in Washington state can apply to have those convictions wiped from their records.
The bill that makes this possible passed earlier this year and was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee in April.
“This is a matter of fairness and justice,” the governor told The Associated Press at the time. “We should not be punishing people for something that is no longer illegal in this state.”
Washington voters made possession and use of marijuana legal in 2012. But misdemeanor convictions from before then can still haunt people, posing problems when they apply for jobs or seek housing.
Inslee offered in January to pardon people who had been convicted only once between Jan. 1, 1998, and Dec. 5, 2012, of violating the state’s marijuana prohibition. The new law expands on the governor’s pardon offer in a few ways:
- A pardon does not vacate a conviction.
- People with multiple marijuana misdemeanor convictions are eligible.
- The date of the conviction doesn’t matter.
- The new law applies to violations of municipal ordinances, not just state law.
If you’re looking to get a conviction vacated, and none of the above limitations apply to you, the process is relatively simple:
- Find the court where your conviction occurred. If you’ve been convicted in multiple courts, you’ll need to apply in each court separately.
- Fill out the proper paperwork. The form you’ll submit is called a Motion and Declaration for Order Vacating Marijuana Conviction.
- File your motion with the court clerk’s office and ask to schedule a hearing. Follow their instructions from there.
Once a court vacates a conviction, the person is clear of all penalties that resulted from it, and it can’t be considered during sentencing for any subsequent conviction, according to a legislative analysis of the bill. Further, a person who has a conviction vacated can state that they have never been convicted of the crime when applying for housing or employment.
Correction: An earlier version of this story listed some cases in which a person cannot have a misdemeanor marijuana conviction vacated. The mentioned caveats apply to other misdemeanor convictions but not to those involving marijuana.