Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued nearly 3,000 pardons for low-level marijuana convictions on Thursday, making good on calls to clear the records of people convicted of offenses no longer illegal under state law. The Democratic governor issued the pardons for thousands of convictions for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana going back decades, according to a press release from Polis’ office.
“We are finally cleaning up some of the inequities of the past by pardoning 2,732 convictions for Coloradans who simply had an ounce of marijuana or less, “ Polis said. “It’s ridiculous how being written up for smoking a joint in the 1970s has followed some Coloradans throughout their lives and gotten in the way of their success.”
Polis issued the pardons under the authority of a new law that allows the governor to grant pardons to a class of defendants who were convicted of possession of up to two ounces of marijuana. The bipartisan measure, which also includes social equity provisions for Colorado’s regulated cannabis industry, was passed in June and went into effect this month.
The pardons granted by Polis through an executive order issued on Thursday apply to state-level convictions for possession of one ounce of marijuana or less, although they do not apply to municipal marijuana crimes. Colorado legalized the recreational use of cannabis by adults in 2014 and possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is no longer considered a criminal offense in the state.
Pardons Issued Automatically
The pardons were granted automatically and do not require an application to be filed by the affected defendants. Once a conviction has been cleared, it will not appear on the state’s records check website.
“It’s off their records. If they have a background check at work or want a concealed-weapons permit or a student loan, this will no longer hold anybody back,” Polis told Westword. “And it’s also symbolically important, because it shows that as a state and nation, we’re coming to terms with the incorrect discriminatory laws of the past that penalized people for possession of small amounts of marijuana.”
Polis also noted that those with convictions for low-level marijuana offenses also bear the collateral effects that come with being branded a criminal by the state, including the loss of eligibility for a host of social benefits and the right to work in some professions.
“Too many Coloradans have been followed their entire lives by a conviction for something that is no longer a crime, and these convictions have impacted their job status, housing, and countless other areas of their lives,” the governor continued in the press release. “Today we are taking this step toward creating a more just system and breaking down barriers to help transform people’s lives as well as coming to terms with one aspect of the past, failed policy of marijuana prohibition.”
Individuals who are unsure whether a conviction on their record has been pardoned can fill out a form to request confirmation of a pardon on the Colorado Bureau of Investigations website. People can view their complete criminal history by visiting the state records check website.