Seattle to Vacate Past Criminal Convictions for Marijuana Possession

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Seattle, as seen from Kerry Park. (Flickr/Bala Sivakumar)

SEATTLE, WA — Following in the footsteps of San Francisco, Seattle city officials announced Thursday that they will be vacating the criminal convictions of former marijuana offenders.

Seattle’s mayor and city attorney plan to ask the courts to vacate all misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions that were prosecuted before the plant was legalized in Washington state in 2012.

Between the years 1986 and 2010, police in Washington made an estimated 240,000 marijuana possession arrests.


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“This action is a necessary first step in righting the wrongs of the past and putting our progressive values into action,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. “Our action will affect people who had been convicted of offenses for conduct that is now legal under state law. People won’t have to take any actions like hiring a lawyer or going to a court hearing. … I hope these actions we’re taking here in Seattle can lay the foundation for other cities, counties and states to act, too.”


Last week, the San Francisco District Attorney’s office announced that it will review, dismiss, and seal an estimated 3,000 misdemeanor marijuana convictions dating back to 1975. Legislation to enact a similar automatic expungement policy statewide is pending in the California Assembly.

Legislation is also pending in Vermont to make it easier for those with past criminal marijuana convictions to petition the court for expungement.


In Pennsylvania, legislation is anticipated to be introduced shortly to vacate previous marijuana convictions for patients who have enrolled in the state medical marijuana program.

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