Colorado: Legislation Signed into Law Providing Governor Expanded Authority to Pardon Marijuana Offenders

Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed legislation into law which provides the office with expanded powers to pardon those with past marijuana convictions.

Language in House Bill 1424, which seeks to facilitate greater diversity and social equity within the retail cannabis industry, permits the office of the Governor to “grant pardons to a class of defendants who were convicted of the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana without an application and without seeking the comment of the District Attorney and judges for those cases.”

“Pardons for marijuana criminal histories are a key part of criminal justice reform in the United States. It is racially targeted, and a shameful remnant of the failed policy of prohibition.” said Lenny Freiling, an attorney who serves on the Board of Directors of Colorado NORML and who is also a member of the NORML Legal Committee.

While the Governor’s office already possesses the authority to issue pardons in certain circumstances, this measure expands those powers so that the Governor can do so unilaterally for persons with minor marijuana convictions.

Legislation (HB 1266) previously enacted by the state legislature in 2017 permits those with misdemeanor cannabis convictions to petition the courts to have their records sealed.

Other provisions in the pending legislation would remove the prohibition on those with past felony convictions for marijuana-related activities from seeking industry licenses, among other changes to facilitate greater social equity within the retail cannabis space.

The earliest bill can take effect is September 14, 2020.