Crime

Colorado Preparing More Pardons for Marijuana Offenses

A Denver Police Department office writes a citation during the 4/20 Rally at Civic Center Park in 2017.
A Denver Police Department office writes a citation during the 4/20 Rally at Civic Center Park in 2017. Brandon Marshall
Colorado could soon offer more record-clearing options for former marijuana offenders. In fact, one of those opportunities is already online.

The state's recreational marijuana possession limit doubled from 1 to 2 ounces in May, after Governor Jared Polis signed House Bill 1090. The new law, intended as part of a push for criminal-justice reform, also makes past convictions at the state level for possession of up to 2 ounces of pot possession eligible for record-clearing.

Polis's office and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the state arm responsible for qualifying candidates for pardons, have yet to make any announcements regarding how this pardon program will be rolled out — but the CBI's website already has the application ready.

On the CBI marijuana pardon page, a link to forms for pardons for possession of two ounces or less of marijuana is now available, though it might not be up forever: According to CBI chief of staff Susan Medina, that pardon option "should not be live at this time" and was erroneously put online. Yet the link and form are still working a week after Westword discovered them.

In the absence of an automatic pardon from the governor, former marijuana offenders can apply to the courts through the CBI website; approval from district attorneys, a common stipulation in record-clearing for other crimes, isn't required.

And more marijuana pardoning efforts related to the bill could be on the way, according to HB 1090's sponsor, State Representative Alex Valdez.

Last year Polis issued over 2,730 automatic pardons at the state level for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. He was granted the power through a 2020 bill passed by the Colorado Legislature, with that pardoning power extending to charges for up to 2 ounces of pot possession. At the time, Polis only automatically granted pardons for 1-ounce convictions but said he'd pardon 2-ounce convictions as well once the law was changed.

During 1090's run through the legislature, proponents working with the governor's office said they expected that another round of automatic pardons for 2-ounce convictions would be issued by Polis, Valdez says.

"The governor is very progressive, so we didn't feel the need to do anything statutorily," Valdez explains, adding that he's been told that pardons related to more marijuana offenses should be on the way "very soon," but wasn't given a timeline.

The governor's office didn't respond to inquiries about Valdez's comments, but has addressed Polis's intention to issue more pardons in the past, stating in May that he "will thoughtfully consider all privileges afforded to him" through HB 1090, "just as he did the previous two legislative sessions."

According to a fiscal note attached to HB 1090, around 27 people each year are charged in Colorado with possession of 2 ounces of marijuana or less, but the pardons would extend back decades before Colorado legalized or decriminalized marijuana possession.

"This continues to be something we want to advocate around and find ways to ensure that everyone has access to fix their records," Valdez says.

The new marijuana possession limit wouldn't affect Colorado's current daily dispensary purchasing limit of 1 ounce, because that would require a regulatory change by the state Marijuana Enforcement Division.
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.
Contact: Thomas Mitchell