A look at efforts to make legal pot foster social justice


Questions about marijuana and social justice have played a prominent role this year in several U.S. states’ debates about pot legalization. But other states and cities where recreational or medical marijuana already is legal have also endeavored to make up for the consequences and racial disparities of decades of policing pot.

A look at some initiatives around the country:

More than five years after Washington state legalized marijuana, Seattle officials last year began moving to clear past pot possession misdemeanor convictions automatically, without defendants having to request it. The city estimated up to 600 cases, going back to 1997, would qualify.

This week, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee signed statewide legislation requiring judges to grant requests to erase many misdemeanor marijuana possession cases that predate legalization. Inslee in January announced a streamlined pardon process for small-time pot convictions, but his initiative had stricter eligibility requirements than the new law.


When voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2016, they also invited people to petition to have old pot convictions expunged or reduced. But relatively few people went through the expense and time.

Some prosecutors tossed out or reduced thousands of convictions en masse, but many others said they didn’t have the resources to identify eligible cases.

Aiming to galvanize the process, lawmakers last year required state justice officials to identify an estimated 220,000 cases

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