Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced Monday that she is pardoning an estimated 45,000 people convicted of simple possession of marijuana, a month after President Joe Biden did the same under federal law.
“Nobody deserves to be saddled forever with the consequences of a conviction for simple possession of marijuana — a crime that is no longer on the books in Oregon,” said Brown, who also has more than $14 million in unpaid fines and fees. forgives.
Biden has called on governors to pardon those convicted of state marijuana offenses, reflecting the vast majority of marijuana possession cases. Biden’s pardon applies to those convicted under federal law and to thousands of convicts in the District of Columbia.
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In recent months, the governors of the states of Colorado, Nevada, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Washington have taken steps to grant pardons to those with light marijuana convictions, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML.
Several states, including California, Illinois and New Jersey, are automatically reviewing criminal convictions for cannabis and erasing past records. In other jurisdictions, eligible persons must petition the courts for a review.
As a result of these laws, cannabis-related convictions have been set aside for an estimated 2 million Americans in recent years, said Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML.
“Our sense of justice and principles of fairness require government officials and courts to act quickly to right past wrongs of cannabis prohibition and criminalization,” Armentano said.
In 2019, Oregon lawmakers passed legislation establishing procedures for people found guilty of minor offenses of possession of marijuana to file a motion in court to have the convictions set aside. Yet, to date, relatively few Oregonians have done so.
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In Oregon, the pardon will expunge 47,144 convictions for possession of a small amount of marijuana from individual records. Brown noted that removing these criminal records removes barriers to employment, housing and educational opportunities.
The pardon applies to convictions for possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana when the person was 21 or older, where it was the only charge where there were no casualties.
“Oregonians should never have to face housing insecurity, employment barriers and educational barriers as a result of something that is now fully legal and has been for years,” Brown said. She said people of color have been arrested, prosecuted and convicted at disproportionate rates.
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The Oregon Judicial Department will ensure that all court documents related to these pardoned offenses are sealed, Brown said.
Oregonians passed a ballot measure in 2014 that legalized recreational use of marijuana, becoming one of the first states to do so. In November, voters in Maryland and Missouri also legalized cannabis, but voters in Arkansas, South Dakota and North Dakota rejected it.
Maryland’s initiative came up with a mechanism to expunge convictions. By July 1, 2024, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services must strike all cases where possession of cannabis was the only charge in the case, and the charge was issued before July 1, 2023.
Maryland and Missouri joined 19 other states and the District of Columbia in making recreational marijuana legal.