Washington State has a golden opportunity to further lead the way on cannabis law reform, and to remedy some of the devastating effects of this failed prohibition.
Announced just a few days ago, House Bill 1661 is a piece of legislation that every reform advocate should have their eyes on – not to mention anyone who has, or knows someone who has, a cannabis possession charge on their record.
House Bill 1661 would explicitly allow individuals charged with a cannabis possession misdemeanor in Washington state to have it removed from their record. This is true whether the plea was guilty, or not guilty.
Not only would this retroactively apply Washington’s new one ounce decrim to those already convicted, it allows charges to be cleared for possession of up to 40 grams, and for those 18 and older – any charge that falls under RCW 69.50.4014.
Now, take in to consideration that over 240,000 people were arrested in Washington state for cannabis possession between 1986-2010, with an additional 10-20,000 since then. Of those convicted, the vast majority would have the ability to remove, or “vacate” the charge from their record, if House Bill 1661 were to pass.
This could make the difference between these people getting a job and a place to live, or constantly being denied both. It would also have a substantial effect on student loans, as many are denied funding based on cannabis convictions, even for simple possession.
The bill certainly faces an upward battle to get passed into law, but it’s off to an excellent start; the measure is being sponsored by 21 legislators, including a couple Republicans.
Now is the time for supporters of this measure – which should be any supporter of sane policy – to make their support known. If you’re a constituent, look up your district’s legislators and urge them to get behind this measure, making sure to contact Governor Inslee as well, who would need to sign the bill for it to become law.
The bill will get a hearing in the House Public Safety Committee within the next couple weeks – making it vital to lobby its members. Beyond contacting elected officials, it’s imperative that we spread the word.
As our country continues to move away from cannabis prohibition, this is the type of policy we should be implementing nation-wide.