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Colorado Governor Pardons Marijuana Convictions

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Colorado governor Jared Polis (D) signed an executive order on October 1st that granted almost 3,000 pardons for individuals that were convicted of possessing less than one ounce of cannabis. 

Although the new law, which was signed in June and took effect on Thursday, granted Polis the power to pardon any crimes under two ounces of possession, his office decided that only convictions of one ounce or less would receive clemency per the current legal possession limit in the state. 

Executive Pardons to Take Effect Immediately 

With the new law allowing governor Polis to use his clemency powers for cannabis offenses without consulting prosecutors and judges, those eligible for the pardons will have their records wiped immediately. The automated process is managed by a website, and pardoned individuals can check the status of processing in real-time. 

Impacted individuals were charged with marijuana-related crimes between 1978 and 2012, when the state became the first in the nation to recreationally legalize marijuana. Individuals with municipal marijuana convictions or arrests did not qualify for the pardon. State-level convictions were the only charges eligible to be disposed of by the governor’s clemency powers. 

Colorado Part of a Larger Movement Towards Marijuana Conviction Reform 

While governor Polis said that his pardons serve as a step forward in “cleaning up some of the inequities of the past,” Colorado isn’t alone in pursuing action towards cannabis-related restorative justice policies

In June, the state of Nevada pardoned a whopping 15,000 convictions, with states like Illinois and Washington taking similar actions to issuing pardons since their states legalized marijuana in recent years. While Polis’ move is symbolically important for coming to terms with discriminatory laws, it remains to be seen if his office will enact its full pardoning power under the new law. His office offered that the administration “will continue to evaluate” those who will receive clemency going forward.

Contributed by Jack Berning

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