Colorado Governor Jared Polis has officially signed a bill to pardon 2,732 low-level cannabis possession convictions through executive order, effective October 1st, 2020.
Gov. Polis’ mass-pardon was made possible by the recent passage of House Bill 1424, which places a large emphasis on the need for social equity and minority access in Colorado’s legal market. Under the new law, the governor can use his clemency power for cannabis offenses without consultation from the prosecutors or judges involved in the case.
“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 stated, according to Denver CBS Local.
“It’s ridiculous how being written up for smoking a joint in the 1970’s has followed some Coloradans throughout their lives and gotten in the way of their success. 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 pardon is automatic, meaning individuals with convictions will not need to apply for pardons. Pardon’s will apply to any convictions in the state courts through 2012 of up to 1 ounce of cannabis for recreational use. It does not apply to convictions in municipal courts or in other states.
Once pardoned, convictions will no longer appear on a criminal history in private-sector background checks. However, this will not expunge or seal public conviction records. According to The Denver Post, law enforcement checks will reveal the convictions but note the governor’s pardon.
“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 explained to Westword. “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 penalize people for possession of small amounts of marijuana.”
A frequently asked questions page on the Governor’s website notes that Polis declined the opportunity to extend the pardon to people with convictions of 1 to 2 ounces. If you are a resident of Colorado and unsure of whether you were issued a pardon, find out by filling out this form on the Colorado Bureau of Investigations website.
Written by Rita Thompson