Governor Inslee signs SB5605, paving a path to force expungement of 69,000 cannabis convictions

Governor Jay Inslee signed SB5605 into law at about 4PM on Monday, May 13th 2019, after its passage in April via both the State Senate and House. The Senate did need a further reconciliation passage after the House amended the bill. The bill would require sentencing courts to vacate cannabis possession convictions, assuming that the person was above the age of 21 at the time of arrest. At the time of passage in the house, The News Tribune quoted State Senator and Bill sponsor Joe Nguyen (D-White Center) as saying:

“This proved you can do transformative justice reform issues and it’s a bipartisan thing,” said the bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Joe Nguyen, D-White Center. “Our unjust laws of the past shouldn’t hold you back from being successful in the future.”

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This could potentially be a boon to otherwise law abiding citizens who have had to uncomfortably confront this injustice on housing and employment applications, college loan applications, military service, and travel abroad. The Washington State Patrol reports that as many as 68,000 convictions could be expunged, affecting more than 58,000 individuals.

Brad Klippert (R-Kennewick) sought to limit the effect of the bill by sponsoring an amendment that would have given the courts the discretion of vacating the conviction, rather than compelling the court to do so. The amendment failed. However, through the House Appropriations Committee, the bill was further scoped to include verbiage that compelled the same action in all jurisdictions to ensure those charged and prosecuted under local, municipal ordinances were vacated, as well.

The Cannabis Alliance, was instrumental in lobbying the legislative body on this and several other bills during this and the previous sessions. The Cannabis Alliance is an industry group focused on introducing common sense laws and regulations to the industry, that benefit the industry as a whole, as opposed to a selective few.

Of further note, SB5442/HB1095 was passed by both chambers and would allow medical cannabis of certain types and dosages to be administered at public schools in accordance with a physicians instructions. Similarly, HB1401/SB5719 aim to bring Washington State Industrial Hemp laws in line with Federal laws, making it easier for Washington State Industrial Hemp based businesses to compete in the national marketplace was also passed in both houses and await the governor’s signature, on his desk.