Oregon Governor Kate Brown Pardons 45,000 Cannabis Convictions

kate brown cannabis pardons
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Oregon Governor Kate Brown pardons 47,144 people charged with cannabis possession before 2016, when the state legalized recreational adult use of cannabis. The pardons are meant to clear the records of many people affected by minor possession charges, as part of a  broader effort to ease up on marijuana laws across the country.

Brown signed an executive order on Monday, November 21, 2022 that allows individuals with convictions for non-violent crimes to petition to have those charges reduced or dismissed. In addition, she has directed law enforcement agencies to review old cases and provide recommendations for dismissal or expungement of records “where appropriate.”

What Convictions Did Kate Brown Pardon?

Democratic Governor Kate Brown has pardoned cannabis convictions for people who have been convicted of possession of one ounce or less of marijuana without any other charge in their case.

In order for someone to be eligible for this pardon, they must meet the following criteria:

  • Possession total must be less than one ounce of marijuana. 
  • The person must not have any victims involved with their crime.
  • They must not be currently charged with another crime, including any related distribution or manufacturing charges.
  • The person must have been 21 or older at the time of their possession conviction. 

Governor Brown said she hopes other states will follow Oregon’s lead in legalizing and decriminalizing possession.

“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. 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 said in a statement following her announcement.

How Do the Pardons Affect Those Currently Incarcerated?

Currently, there is no one incarcerated in the state of Oregon for possession of one ounce of marijuana or less. This is reminiscent of Biden’s similar statements earlier this year where the President pardoned 65,000 Americans’ cannabis convictions, yet no people are currently serving time for marijuana possession under federal law.

Governor Brown’s gesture does not go unnoticed, and until there is a larger push towards federal legalization, those incarcerated are still being punished for something that nearly half the nation has legalized. 

Brown’s Pardon Forgives Many Unpaid Fees

The question many with simple conviction wondered is if this pardon order also forgives unpaid fines associated with the conviction or violation? The fines, fees, and associated penalties for even a minor cannabis infraction can be an extreme burden to many Oregonians. 

Fortunately, in this case, the answer is yes. The governor’s pardon order also forgives approximately $14 million in unpaid court fines and fees associated only with the pardoned convictions. As such, these funds will no longer be collected by the State, but it may take a few weeks for the State to update its records and to reach out to collection agencies to waive the fines and fees included in the governor’s pardon.

A Step in the Right Direction

The pardon of nearly 50,000 cannabis convictions is a huge deal for Oregon. First, it benefits a lot of people who have been negatively affected by the criminalization of cannabis in the past. Especially for minorities and those affected at disproportionately higher rates. Second, the removal associated fees will offer massive relief to those burdened by ongoing payment plans and outstanding debts. 

Oregon is taking an important step in its journey towards total cannabis reform by pardoning cannabis convictions. This will help many people who have been harmed by the War on Drugs and allow them to move on with their lives. We hope other states will follow Oregon’s lead and take similar action.

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