Oct 9, 2020 | NEWS | By Riley Prillwitz | Illustration by Patil Khakhamian
Last Thursday, Gov. Jared Polis signed Executive Order C 2020 004, which will automatically pardon those whose crimes qualify as minor marijuana charges.
This order comes after the Colorado General Assembly passed House Bill 1424 this past June. Bill 1424 gave the Governor the authoritative power to sign an executive order for such a pardon.
“I, Jared Polis, Governor of the State of Colorado, hereby issue the Executive Order granting full and unconditional pardons to individuals convicted of possession of one (1) ounce or less of marijuana in the State of Colorado …” the order began. You can read more on the Executive Order here.
The one-ounce order limit is synonymous with Colorado Amendment 64, which in 2012 was passed to allow up to one ounce of marijuana possession for recreational use.
The pardon took time to put into place after the House Bill because, unlike other pardon attempts, those who qualify are not required to apply for a pardon. It took the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) longer than usual to sort out how many people in Colorado automatically apply, since some offenses were committed by the same person.
The CBI has discovered that 2,732 convictions in the state of Colorado qualify for pardoning.
“In addition to being symbolic,” the Governor told The Denver Post, “[the pardon] has real-life ramifications for people.”
Marijuana convictions can be detrimental to a person’s record, denying them of many government benefits and allowing an employer to deny them a job.
“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. 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,” said Polis.
Recently, many Coloradans have profited off of the marijuana business in similar ways as those who were convicted of marijuana crimes in the past. Many of these convictions disproportionately affect Black people around the country in relation to the War on Drugs.
“Despite roughly equal usage rates, Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana,” said the ACLU in a report about marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, Black people have not been given equal opportunity in the recently legal industry of marijuana distribution.
Governor Polis “plans to look at more policies in the 2021 legislative session to address equity and opportunities for people to work in the cannabis industry,” wrote Saja Hindi of Denver Post.
For those who are not certain if they qualify for the pardon or not, a page on the Colorado Bureau of Investigations has been set up to give additional information, including an easy-to-follow flow chart.
If a person does qualify for the pardon, the entire conviction will be wiped from their record and will not appear when referenced.
While it has been a rocky year for most types of business due to the pandemic, this is a win for many social justice activists who have been fighting for a pardon of this kind.