Oregon Governor Will Issue Nearly 50,000 Weedpardons
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Oregon Governor Will Issue Nearly 50,000 Weedpardons

On Monday, Democratic Governor Kathy Brown of Oregon announced that she would grant pardons to low-level marijuana possession convictions of people aged 21 and over who were prosecuted prior to 2016. According to the governor’s office, the move will affect approximately 45,000 people convicted of small-scale marijuana possession. The pardon also includes a forgiving of $14 million in fees and fines associated with the convictions. Brown stated Monday that he was taking steps to correct the injustices of an inequitable and outdated criminal justice system in Oregon regarding personal marijuana possession. “This action will relieve the collateral consequences of these convictions for the estimated 45,000 people who have been pardoned for previous state convictions for marijuana possession.” Pardons for Pre-2016 Convictions for Post PossessionThe pardons announced Monday apply to pre-2016 convictions in electronic cases for less than one ounce of marijuana. The pardons must not be applied to cases in which there were no victims and where the only charge against the defendant was possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. The pardons are not applicable to other controlled substances or marijuana-related offenses like cultivation, distribution, and sales of cannabis. Pardons will close the records of such convictions, and address the collateral harms associated to a criminal record. Brown noted that, despite relatively equal cannabis use among racial group, “Black and Latina/o/x have been arrested, prosecuted and convicted at disproportionate rate” for marijuana offenses. Brown stated that no one should be forever burdened by a conviction for simple possession. This crime is no longer on Oregon’s books. “Oregonians shouldn’t have to face housing insecurity, job barriers, or educational obstacles because they did something that was legal for many years. My pardon will eliminate these hardships.” The governor’s office stated that pardons will not be granted to state-level marijuana possession convictions because the Oregon Justice Department doesn’t have access to local justice court or city records. Officials posted a FAQ online explaining what happens to records after they are sealed by the court. They also explained how pardons will affect a person’s criminal record. “The pardoned marijuana conviction won’t show up on background checks of publicly available court records.” The pardoned conviction will still show up in background checks by licensing authorities or law enforcement officials. The pardons of minor marijuana possession convictions follow President Joseph Biden’s pardon of federal simple marijuana possession convictions. The president also directed the Department of Health and Human Services and Justice Department to examine the continued classification of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule 1. In a statement issued on October 6, Biden stated that sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has caused too many deaths and incarcerated people who engaged in conduct that many states have stopped prohibiting. “Criminal records for marijuana possession have also created unnecessary barriers to employment, housing and educational opportunities. While white and black people use marijuana at the same rate, people of color have been arrested, prosecuted and convicted at disproportionately high rates.” Brown’s pardons are part of her ongoing efforts to reform Oregon’s criminal justice systems. She commuted more than 1,000 sentences for state crimes between 2020 and 2021. On Monday, Democratic U.S. Ron Wyden, an Oregon supporter of cannabis policy reform at federal level, released a statement in support of the governor’s clemency actions. Wyden stated that “pardoning simple possession in Oregon was absolutely necessary to repair damage done by the failed War on Drugs.” It is the proper use governor’s clemency power and I hope every governor and state legislature will do the same. The American people have shown overwhelming support for reforming and expunging our marijuana laws. It is now that Congress must take action and correct these violations at the federal level. As we near the end of this Congress we will continue to push for meaningful marijuana reform and will fight to get as many things done as possible.”

 

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