Two States Could Soon Offer Pardons to Those with Cannabis Convictions

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CARSON CITY, Nev. and DENVER — With the focus on criminal justice reform front and center, the states of Nevada and Colorado both could be offering pardons to many with previous cannabis convictions.

The Nevada State Board of Pardons Commissioners voted unanimously on Wednesday to pardon many individuals convicted of low-level cannabis possession. Pardons will extend to anyone convicted of possession of less than one ounce of cannabis in the last two decades and will be granted only by request. To receive the pardon, candidates must submit an application with a copy of their conviction or criminal history.

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The new rule does not pardon those convicted before 2001, however, those with convictions prior to that year may apply to the board to have their record cleared.

“Today is an historic day for those who were convicted of what has long been considered a trivial crime, and is now legal under Nevada law,” Governor Steve Sisolak (D-Nev.) said.

Nevada initially decriminalized cannabis in 2017 after recreational use was approved.

In Colorado, one of the first two states to legalize recreational cannabis, House Bill 1424 now is pending in Governor Jared Polis’ office. If signed into law, the bill will expand the governor’s ability to “grant pardons to a class of defendants who were convicted of the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana without an application and without seeking the comment of the District Attorney and judges for those cases,” NORML reported.

HB 1424 was also drafted with the intention of expanding opportunity and inclusiveness within the cannabis industry.

According to a 2020 study by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “Black people are 3.6 times more likely [nationwide] than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, notwithstanding comparable usage rates.” In a related chart, the ACLU said “Colorado has the lowest racial disparity in the nation. However, Black people are still 1.5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people.”

As it currently stands, Coloradans with felony convictions for “marijuana-related activities” are prohibited from seeking cannabis business licensing. Under HB 1424, these individuals would be allowed to apply for licenses to operate legally in the industry.

Governor Polis has signaled his support for HB 1424 and is expected to sign the bill into law. His press secretary has publicly said “the administration is supportive of this bill and looks forward to seeing it pass.”

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