Democratic Gov. Jared Polis issued over 1,300 pardons late last week to those convicted of past marijuana possession offenses. The Governor’s action comes months after lawmakers passed legislation expanding the pool of those eligible to receive pardons for cannabis-related convictions.
The marijuana pardons apply to state-level convictions for the possession of two ounces or less of marijuana, as identified by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
“Adults can legally possess marijuana in Colorado, just as they can beer or wine,” Gov. Polis stated in a press release. “It’s unfair that 1,351 additional Coloradans had permanent blemishes on their record that interfered with employment, credit, and gun ownership, but today we have fixed that by pardoning their possession of small amounts of marijuana that occurred during the failed prohibition era.”
Last year, the Governor similarly granted pardons to nearly 3,000 people with marijuana possession convictions.
Colorado’s Governor is not alone is his decision to issue marijuana-specific pardons. In recent months, the Governors of Nevada, Illinois, and Washington have taken similar steps to grant an estimated 30,000 pardons to those with low-level marijuana convictions. Additionally, state regulators in a number of other states — including California, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia — have reviewed and sealed the records of over 2 million people with prior cannabis-related convictions.
Colorado is one of more than a dozen states that explicitly permit those with marijuana-related crimes to have their records either sealed or expunged.
NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano praised these efforts. “Tens of thousands of Americans unduly carry the burden and stigmatization of a past conviction for behavior that is no longer considered to be a crime,” he said. “Our sense of justice and our principles of fairness demand that officials continue to take action in order to right the past wrongs of cannabis prohibition and criminalization.”