Seattle has taken a step up in righting cannabis-related Drug War wrongs, and it's a great one.
On Friday, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes cited an ACLU report showing that African Americans are arrested at a rate of three times that of whites for possession of cannabis, even though cannabis use between the African Americans and whites is equal. (This is a perfect example of "white privilege," if you know anyone who's still pretending not to know what that term means.)
Holmes said in a statement to The Stranger:
“As we see marijuana sold in retail storefronts today, people who simply had a joint in their pocket a decade ago still have a red mark on their records. It’s long past time we remedy the drug policies of yesteryear, and this is one small step to right the injustices of a drug war that has primarily targeted people of color. I’m hopeful the court will choose to clear these charges.”Misdemeanor possession charges will be removed for 542 people, some going back as far as 30 years. The idea was first announced back in February by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who said:
"Vacating charges for misdemeanor marijuana possession is a necessary step to correct the injustices of what was a failed war on drugs, which disproportionately affected communities of color in Seattle. The war on drugs in large part became a war on people who needed opportunity and treatment,” she added. “While we cannot reverse all the harm that was done, we must do our part to give Seattle residents—including immigrants and refugees—a clean slate.”It's long overdue, and seeing as how a recent report predicts Washington State will take in about $730 million over the next two years from cannabis sales, would be a travesty to not enact this plan.
While Portland has allocated a portion of its cannabis tax revenues to address record expungement, there has been no action on par to vacate existing possesion charges at a level that doesn't require those charged to go through the process of expungement.