Civil Rights, District Attorneys, News

Seattle seeks to vacate marijuana convictions

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Seattle’s mayor and the city’s district attorney have filed a motion in Seattle Municipal Court asking a judge to vacate convictions and dismiss charges for marijuana possession for men and women prosecuted by law enforcement from 1997 to 2010.

If the motion is approved, the records of 542 people convicted of marijuana possession will be affected. City Attorney Peter Holmes stopped charging for marijuana possession when voters elected him to office in 2010. Jenny A. Durkan is Seattle’s mayor.

Washington State and Colorado were the first two states that began taxing and regulating marijuana in 2012.

“The city’s motion is a small but meaningful step in reducing the harm the war on drugs has caused communities of color,” said Lorinda Youngscourt, director of the King County Department of Public Defense. “That harm is ongoing. Racially disparate police, filing decisions and sentencing decisions perpetuate the mass incarceration of communities of color.”

The American Civil Liberties Union published in June 2013 a report titled “The War on Marijuana in Black and White.” The report noted that in Washington state blacks were 2.8 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.

In King County, where Seattle is located, police arrested 217 blacks for every 96 whites. The study reported that blacks and whites smoke marijuana at the same rates.

Seattle is the state’s largest city, but in Pierce County, Tacoma is the largest, and its arrest rate for blacks possessing marijuana is the highest in Washington. The ACLU reported that for every 154 whites arrested, 650 blacks are thrown in jail.

 

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