Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Thursday he will issue additional pardons to Coloradans convicted of low-level marijuana possession crimes now that he’s signed a bill into law allowing people to have up to 2 ounces of cannabis.
House Bill 1090, which Polis made a law on Thursday, doubles Colorado’s recreational marijuana possession limit to 2 ounces for adults 21 and older. It also gives people convicted of possessing up to 2 ounces of cannabis the chance to more easily seal their criminal record if they haven’t committed a crime since.
“The consequences for people who had a personal amount of cannabis, before it had been legalized, still has a long shadow,” Polis said. “For doing something that is fully legal today, they might have something on their records – of course, that’s disproportionately people of color – that might get in the way of them getting loans or leases or licenses or jobs or mortgages or many other things.”
Polis, a Democrat, said his office will begin reviewing records over the next few months in preparation for additional pardons. In October, Polis pardoned more than 2,700 people convicted of possessing up to 1 ounce of marijuana.
The measure is another step in unraveling the criminal consequences of Colorado’s past marijuana laws, which disproportionately affected Black and other people of color, said Rep. Alex Valdez, D-Denver, prime sponsor of the legislation, along with Sen. Julie Gonzales, D-Denver.
“We believe, like the voters did in 2012, that cannabis isn’t worth haunting people’s efforts to get housing or a job, and we are taking meaningful efforts to help people get on with their lives,” Valdez said.
Before the passage of House Bill 1090, people convicted of possessing between 1 and 2 ounces of marijuana had to file a petition with the court to try to have their records sealed. That process included notifying the district attorney that charged them and additional court hearings.
People are still required to file a petition, but the new law expedites that process. Courts are now required to seal convictions, without the opportunity for a district attorney to object, so long as people meet all the criteria.
The expedited petition process applies only to people who haven’t been convicted of another crime since their release from probation or parole, or after the criminal process related to their conviction has ended.
Advocates of the new law say it eliminates bureaucratic and legal barriers that can cause significant delays for people seeking to seal their records. If a person has other convictions tied to the same arrest, or subsequent criminal charges, they could still be required to go through a conventional petition process.
The legislation also makes people with a Class 3 felony conviction for marijuana cultivation – meaning they cultivated 30 or more plants illegally – eligible to petition the court for their record to be sealed. The measure doesn’t offer a fast-tracked sealing process as it does for possession convictions, but currently those with cultivation convictions can’t have their record sealed at all.