Gov. Brown to pardon prior offenses for possessing marijuana

Tens of thousands of Oregonians will have convictions removed and fines forgiven for previous offenses of possessing marijuana under a plan by Gov. Kate Brown.

Brown’s pardons will remove 47,144 convictions for simple possession of marijuana from individual records, which the agency said will eliminate barriers for thousands of people seeking employment, housing and educational opportunities they would have otherwise been ineligible for, the governor’s office announced Monday.

The agency estimated the pardon would impact about 45,000 people, as some may have several convictions pardoned. Brown also intends to forgive over $14 million in related fines and fees.

Information provided by the Oregon Judicial Department for the pardons did not include identifying information such as addresses or demographic information, according to the governor’s office.

The pardon impacts electronically available convictions in Oregon for possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana in cases where the person was at least 21, where that was the only charge and where there were no victims. It doesn’t apply to other offenses related to marijuana or other controlled substances.

“No one deserves to be forever saddled with the impacts of a conviction for simple possession of marijuana — a crime that is no longer on the books in Oregon,” Brown wrote in the statement. “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.”

Following the pardon, the Oregon Judicial Department will ensure that all related court records are sealed as required by law, according to the governor’s office.

“We are a state, and a nation, of second chances,” Brown wrote in the statement. “Today, I am taking steps to right the wrongs of a flawed, inequitable, and outdated criminal justice system in Oregon when it comes to personal marijuana possession.”

More information about the pardon is available on the governor’s office website.

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.