Marijuana conviction waivers to be allowed in Washington

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a bill aimed at erasing old misdemeanor marijuana convictions, seven years after voters in the state approved an initiative that legalized the drug.

Under the new law signed Monday judges are required to grant requests to vacate misdemeanor marijuana possession charges that occurred before the drug was legalized, provided the defendant was 21 at the time.

The measure goes further than an earlier marijuana pardon process announced by Inslee, which had stricter eligibility requirements.

Advocates have called having to list a prior misdemeanor conviction a major barrier to housing and employment, and part of a system of barriers that can make it difficult for people with even minor crimes to escape a cycle of joblessness and housing issues.

But critics say an earlier act of lawbreaking is still fundamentally criminal even if a law later changes.