This is a nice start — it's "a necessary first step," as you said in your editorial this morning.
The logic here, of course, is that possessing marijuana should never have been a crime so it's unjust to leave charges and convictions for pot possession on people's records. Over in the UK they're pardoning gay and bi men who were convicted of engaging in homosexual acts back when gay sex was illegal there — and they're doing it for the exact same reasons you and City Attorney Pete Holmes are asking Seattle’s municipal court to vacate convictions and dismiss charges for misdemeanor marijuana possession. Society now recognizes that neither of these things — people smoking a little pot, dudes sucking a little cock — should have been illegal in the first place.
But just as it never should've been a crime to possess pot, it never should've been a crime to deal or grow pot.
There are legal pot shops all over Seattle — it's now legal to possess large quantities of pot. It's now legal to deal pot. It's now legal to grow pot. If we're going to erase charges and convictions for possessing small amounts of pot for personal use (because it never should never have been a crime in the first place), we must also vacate convictions and dismiss charges for non-violent offenses related to growing and dealing pot (because those things never should have been crimes either). So it's not just misdemeanor marijuana charges and convictions that need to come off people's records, but felony marijuana charges and convictions as well. (Oh, and people who had their assets seized under civil asset forfeiture laws for non-violent pot crimes should be made whole — they should have their assets returned with interest.)
Our families and our communities — particularly communities of color — weren't just harmed by misdemeanor pot possession charges and convictions. Families and communities were harmed by possession with intent to distribute charges and convictions, by marijuana sale and distribution charges and convictions, by marijuana cultivation charges and convictions, by "hash and concentrates" charges and convictions, by marijuana "paraphernalia" charges and convictions.
The war on drugs was a failure, as you acknowledged today, one that had "devastating impacts on people, especially people of color and their families." Many of the people whose lives were devastated during the war on drugs were dealing or growing pot. They too were "convicted of offenses for conduct that is now legal under state law." They too "faced huge legal bills and fines, or had a harder time getting loans, apartments, and good-paying jobs" after being charged, tried, and convicted for offenses that are now legal under state law. They too were harmed.
And they too — the dealers, the growers, the paraphernalia sellers — should have their convictions vacated and their charges dismissed. Perhaps it's not within your power to do erase felony dealing/growing/paraphernalia'ing charges and convictions unilaterally, but you should call for these charges and convictions to be erased as well. It's the next step.
Post gently updated.
Your open letter caught my eyes 😊
I did want to quickly follow up that Seattle did not prosecute any felonies relating to marijuana or even all the misdemeanors — which is actually different than San Francisco’s city/county government. In the press conference, Jenny did express support for King County and other counties as well as the state to look at further action on felony possessions. Anyways, stay in touch and glad you agree today is necessary and a nice start — it’s an important convo.
Mayor Jenny Durkan
I didn't catch the press conference, Stephanie, but I'm extremely pleased to hear that Mayor Durkan expressed support for WA counties and WA state taking similar action on felony convictions. Here's hoping her support was aggressive and here's hoping she raises and pushes the issue with Dow and Jay. Because it would be nice to hear someone (other than a sex-advice columnist with an itchy post finger) express support for dealers and growers — non-violent ones — because they were victims of the war on drugs too. And while there's a lot of sympathy out there for people who merely possessed marijuana (since almost everyone has possessed it at some point), there's very little sympathy for those who grew it or sold it back before growing and selling was legal. You know, the folks who made it possible for the rest of us to to posses (and enjoy) pot.
I'd love to see Jenny, a former federal prosecutor, come out swinging for non-violent pot dealers and growers. That would be a huge. If she did so today, please send me the transcript.
Because, once again, the argument Jenny made today — pot possession "is now legal under state law," therefore those who were arrested, charged, prosecuted and convicted for pot possession should have their convictions vacated and their charges dismissed — applies to non-violent dealers and growers too.