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Bill that would provide clemency for pot convictions advances

UPDATED: Fri., Feb. 15, 2019

A bud tender shows a top cannabis strain Feb. 7 at Serra a dispensary in Portland, Ore. A plan that could wipe out hundreds of thousands of misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions for Washington state adults was sent to a Senate budget committee Thursday. (Richard Vogel / Associated Press)
A bud tender shows a top cannabis strain Feb. 7 at Serra a dispensary in Portland, Ore. A plan that could wipe out hundreds of thousands of misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions for Washington state adults was sent to a Senate budget committee Thursday. (Richard Vogel / Associated Press)

OLYMPIA – A plan that could wipe out as many as 200,000 misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions for Washington adults was sent to a Senate budget committee Thursday after efforts to restrict its scope were rejected.

Sen. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney, tried to convince the Senate Law and Justice Committee to restrict the proposal so that only a person with one or two such convictions could ask to have them removed from their record. As currently written, there’s no limit to the number of qualifying misdemeanor marijuana possessions a person could seek to have vacated.

The bill would apply to any misdemeanor marijuana possession conviction for a person 21 and older in Washington since 1998, the year when voters legalized medical marijuana. Supporters said convictions for something that has become legal should not remain on a person’s record.

“I like what (the bill) does,” Holy said, but the number of convictions wiped clean shouldn’t be “open-ended.”

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said some of the convictions could be for people originally facing more serious drug delivery crimes who had their charges reduced through a plea bargain. “If somebody had a hundred, I guess they get them all vacated,” he said.

The majority of the committee, however, turned down Holy’s amendment and sent the bill to the Ways and Means Committee, which will consider the proposal’s cost before deciding whether to send it to the full Senate for a vote.

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