Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes announced the new policy Thursday in a prepared statement. A formal announcement was expected at 10 a.m. Thursday.
The Seattle officials' statement said the City Attorney's Office will ask Seattle’s municipal court to vacate convictions and dismiss charges for misdemeanor marijuana possession prosecuted by the city before Initiative 502 legalized pot possession for adults aged 21 or older in 2012.
The move will help to bring "restorative justice for communities who have been disproportionately targeted by the criminal justice system and furthers the city’s commitment to eliminate racial disparities," the statement added.
Today, @CityAttyPeteH & I are announcing that our City will move to vacate convictions & dismiss charges for misdemeanor marijuana possession. Seattle has an opportunity to continue undoing the harm to people’s lives brought on by the failed war on drugs. https://t.co/qHeJteFrPk— Mayor Jenny Durkan (@MayorJenny) February 8, 2018
Marijuana possession arrests in Washington state rose sharply in the 25-year period from 4,000 in 1986 to 11,000 in 2010, totaling 240,000 arrests, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
During that period, African-Americans were arrested at nearly three times the rate of whites. Latinos and Native Americans were arrested at 1.6 times the rate of whites.
Seattle's decision to vacate past pot convictions follows a similar move by the city of San Francisco.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said last week that his office will dismiss and seal 3,038 misdemeanor convictions dating back before California's legalization of marijuana went into effect, with no action necessary from those who were convicted.
Prosecutors will also review up to 4,940 felony convictions and consider reducing them to misdemeanors.