Outgoing Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced Monday thats she’s issuing tens of thousands of pardons for marijuana convictions in the state.
The pardons will affect about 45,000 people, her office estimates, and will apply to people who were 21 or older when they were found in possession of 1 ounce or less or marijuana before 2016 ― when the state first began allowing the drug’s recreational use ― so long as they don’t have any other charges.
“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 said in a statement, noting that because of the convictions on their records, many of these people “face housing insecurity, employment barriers and educational obstacles as a result of doing something that is now completely legal.”
The American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement praising Brown, who also recently commuted the sentences of dozens of people who were convicted of crimes they committed as minors.
“We are grateful for Governor Brown’s use of clemency as a powerful tool to address our state’s outdated and racially-biased practices,” Sandy Chung, executive director of the ACLU of Oregon, said in a statement Monday.
Black people in Oregon, the group says, are 1.8 times more likely than white people to be arrested on marijuana convictions despite equal rates of usage. Nationwide, that figure rises from 1.8 to 3.73.
Brown acknowledged those discrepancies in her announcement Monday, saying she’s “taking steps to right the wrongs of a flawed, inequitable and outdated criminal justice system in Oregon when it comes to personal marijuana possession.”
Oregon is one of 21 states ― along with Washington, D.C., and the U.S. territory of Guam ― where recreational marijuana use is now legal. However, the federal government still prohibits the drug and considers it as dangerous as heroin and methamphetamines despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
Brown, who is leaving office after reaching the two-term limit, will be replaced by Democrat Tina Kotek.