Following a new trend in decriminalization, the Seattle municipal court has been asked to vacate hundreds of marijuana charges from up to thirty years ago. Philadelphia made a similar move when District Attorney Larry Krasner announced that his office dropped 51 marijuana charges. Both decisions may have been inspired by San Francisco’s District Attorney who was the first to dismiss thousands of marijuana convictions.
Why Are Cities Dropping Marijuana Charges?
San Francisco was motivated to undo the wrongdoings of the past. That’s when they lifted thousands of marijuana charges dating back to 1975. It would have been hypocritical to allow recreational cannabis to be sold in stores while people continue to suffer from mere possession.
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes believes dismissing marijuana possession cases will best serve the “interests of equity and justice” in his city. When he became City Attorney he vowed to stop all prosecution of marijuana possession cases.
“As we see marijuana sold in retail storefronts today, people who simply had a joint in their pocket a decade ago still have a red mark on their record,” Holmes told The Stranger.
One of the main motivating factors in San Francisco was the racial disparity in convictions. Holmes also cited the adverse impact marijuana arrests have had on people of color.
“It’s long past time we remedy the drug policies of yesteryear, and this one small step to right the injustices of a drug war that has primarily targeted people of color. I’m hopeful the court will choose to clear these charges.”
In Philadelphia, District Attorney Larry Krasner told reporters dropping marijuana possession charges would free police resources to “solve homicides.”
Washington residents voted to legalize recreational cannabis way back in 2012. According to the Washington Department of Health, there are over one hundred licensed cannabis retailers. There are also “medically endorsed stores.” So far cities in California, Pennsylvania and Washington have chosen to expunge the records of those who were punished for cannabis possession.
Dropping hundreds of marijuana possession charges is a start but there is still plenty of damage to be undone in the rest of the country. Despite the rhetoric of Jeff Sessions, the gears of legalization and decriminalization continue to turn.
In fact, the city of Baton Rouge also loosened their penalties for marijuana charges to prevent more communities of color being destroyed. The city of Albuquerque also met to discuss marijuana legislation.