Colorado Governor Jared Polis excuses former cannabis convicts of their crimes

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Before the year 2021 drew to a close, the Democratic Governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, announced more than 1,300 pardons for people who had previously been convicted of cannabis possession offenses. 

The pardons focus on state-level convictions for cannabis possession of two ounces or less, as verified by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

Polis’ issuing of the pardons emerged months after legislation was approved by lawmakers to broaden an existing list of eligibility factors for cannabis-related conviction exonerations.

“It’s unfair that 1,351 additional Coloradans had permanent blemishes on their record that interfered with employment, credit, and gun ownership, but today we have fixed that by pardoning their possession of small amounts of cannabis that occurred during the failed prohibition era,” said the governor.
(Pictured) Colorado Governor Jared Polis

Gov. Polis added that Coloradan adults aged 21 and over can legally possess the plant “just as they can beer or wine.” In 2021, he excused almost 3,000 people with cannabis possession convictions.

A cannabis conviction can result in punitive sentencing

The war on drugs in the U.S. has contributed immensely to cannabis’ taboo image. During the 50+ years of prohibition that has plagued American life, millions of people have suffered the legal repercussions of what would, nowadays, appear to be harmless tasks, e.g. possessing cannabis. 

Examples of the ways in which someone might be penalized for possessing the plant including being forcefully admitted to ‘drug detention centers’, being mandatorily sentenced and even facing the death penalty.

Just under half of the 1.5 million annual non-violent drug violation arrests are for cannabis. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) supports this claim. In many instances, people from underprivileged communities are usually the worst-impacted by the failed war on drugs. 

Fortunately, due to growing acceptance of the plant, that image is gradually being restored. Nonetheless, this doesn’t change the fact that law enforcement officials across the U.S. and further afield have spent tireless hours – hours that could have been spent focusing on more important searches and arrests – locking up people for non-violent cannabis violations.

Colorado Governor’s decision mirrors action taken in other states  

Progress on the subject of cannabis-specific pardons extend far beyond Colorado, which is recognized as one of over a dozen U.S. states that enable people with cannabis-related crimes to have their record wiped clean.

Last year, the governors responsible for providing oversight for cannabis-related issues not to mention various other in-office issues in Illinois, Nevada, and Washington collectively pardoned 30,000 people with low-level convictions. 

What’s more, regulators in states like California, New Jersey, New York and Virginia have also assessed and plugged the records of over two million people with previous cannabis-related convictions.

Since the country’s overly harsh policies tend to cause the crowding of prisons not to mention threaten people’s rights to free speech and limits their ability to do as they please in privacy pardons such as Polis’ could radically transform the American landscape in terms of saving valuable police time and resources.