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Oregon governor pardons simple marijuana possession convictions

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced on Monday that she is pardoning prior offenses for simple marijuana possession, removing more than 47,000 convictions from individual records.

This move will affect up to 45,000 individuals in Oregon and forgive $14 million in fines and fees, according to a statement from Brown.

“No one deserves to be forever saddled with the impacts of a conviction for simple possession of marijuana — a crime that is no longer on the books in Oregon,” the governor said.

“Oregonians should never face housing insecurity, employment barriers, and educational obstacles as a result of doing something that is now completely legal, and has been for years,” she added. “My pardon will remove these hardships. And while Oregonians use marijuana at similar rates, Black and Latina/o/x people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”

Brown’s pardon will be applied to electronically available records of Oregon convictions for conviction of one ounce or less of marijuana. Eligible convictions must have occurred before 2016, and the pardon only applies to incidents in which the individual was over the age of 21 and no victims were involved.

No other marijuana-related convictions were included in the pardon.

Brown’s office noted that it may take several weeks for Oregon to update its records and notify collection agencies about the waived fines. However, the office said the records should be updated within one month.

All court records regarding the pardoned offenses will be sealed and the convictions should not show up in background checks that are not conducted by law enforcement. A copy of the court order sealing an individual’s court records should be available in about six to eight weeks, according to Brown’s office.

Brown’s action comes about six weeks after President Biden announced he was pardoning all federal offenses for simple marijuana possession. He similarly cited the barriers that a marijuana-related conviction presents in a person’s life when explaining his decision.

“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs,” the president said at the time.

The White House urged governors to follow Biden’s lead in pardoning marijuana convictions. Republican governors, however, have not been receptive to the idea.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) office said it would not be “taking criminal justice advice” from Biden, and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) adamantly stated that he was “not considering” pardons for marijuana possession.

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