Washington State officials are ready to begin distributing financial reimbursements to state residents with prior cannabis and other drug-related convictions.
Hundreds of thousands of residents could be eligible for compensation as part of the program which is accessible through an online portal.
The move follows a Washington Supreme Court ruling in 2021 that determined the laws criminalizing drug possession were unconstitutional and void. This decision was based on the fact that state drug possession laws did not require intent or knowledge of possession which the court regarded as a due process violation of state and federal constitutions.
The consequences of the State v. Blake ruling is that any similar convictions are eligible to be vacated and expunged from the individual’s criminal record. On top of this, any costs incurred as a result of legal obligations qualify for reimbursement.
“The State v Blake ruling impacts an estimated 200,000+ felony drug possession charges dating back to the 1970s and an estimated additional 125,000 misdemeanor marijuana charges eligible for vacation,” reads a press release from the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Washington State officials have so far ring-fenced close to $100 million to reimburse court costs, fines, and legal fees paid in relation to drug possession convictions.
The web portal to apply for reimbursements is live and accepting applications.
“The intent is to have a process that is easy to navigate and will provide for a timely response for individuals to receive their refunds,” said Sharon Swanson, Blake implementation manager for the Administrative Office of the Courts. “The public will be able to search for their cases by their name or case number.”
Before applying for reimbursement, however, individuals with prior drug possession convictions must have their Blake-related convictions vacated and their refund eligibility assessed by the court where they were tried.
This has been possible for marijuana-related convictions in Washington State since 2019 when Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law to facilitate the expungement of such convictions from an individual’s criminal record.