Colorado Editorials: Colorado should wipe low-level marijuana convictions clean
Colorado should wipe low-level marijuana convictions clean
Possessing small amounts of marijuana has been legal in Colorado now for six years, and yet convictions still haunt those who got caught with a small amount of pot or paraphernalia before voters approved Amendment 64 in 2012.
Slowly laws have adapted to meet the realization dawning over America that marijuana is a relatively safe drug comparable to alcohol. Possessing and using the drug were victimless crimes. According to The Denver Post’s Andrew Kenney, in Denver it’s estimated that as many as 10,000 people were convicted of low-level marijuana offenses between 2001 and 2013.
For those individuals the convictions are a permanent stain on their records for something that is entirely legal under Colorado law today. In 2017 Colorado lawmakers passed a law that enabled folks to expunge these types of convictions from their records, however they must petition the court, pay fees and be aware in the first place that it’s an option to clear their record.
Denver’s Mayor Michael Hancock and Boulder County’s District Attorney’s Office have decided to take proactive steps to help residents convicted in their jurisdictions accomplish expungement.
It’s unclear exactly how either program will play out, but we’re glad officials are pursuing this public service.
This board has long been concerned with the unequal application of this nation’s drug laws. Hancock said it well in his announcement that Denver would pursue this policy: “For too long, the lives of low-income residents and those living in our communities of color have been negatively affected by low-level marijuana convictions. This is an injustice that needs to be corrected, and we are going to provide a pathway to move on from an era of marijuana prohibition that has impacted the lives of thousands of people.”
We understand the argument that we can’t retroactively apply law changes — especially without specific direction to do so from voters or lawmakers. However, Colorado’s lawmakers spoke on this issue passing a law through a then-Republican Senate and a Democratic House calling for these convictions to be eligible for expungement. Helping all Coloradans take advantage of that law just makes sense. Not only did these convictions disproportionately impact low-income residents and communities of color, but those same populations would have a more difficult time navigating the systems that allow them to expunge these records now.
In Boulder County, the district attorney’s office is going to automatically vacate and seal thousands of low-level marijuana convictions. Denver could take a similar path or simply make it easier for folks to begin the process themselves.
Other jurisdictions across Colorado should take note. It could save everyone — including our strained bureaucracies and court systems — time and money if we can all agree to vacate these convictions automatically. And it could be good for our economy too if people looking for employment find their records clean once more.
Colorado’s experiment with recreational marijuana hasn’t been perfect, but it has been a step in the right direction. Denver and Boulder will face challenges as they implement these policies, deciding how to deal with people who have multiple convictions or other drug-related offenses, but this goal also is a step in the right direction.
The Denver Post, Dec. 4
The right must adapt to Denverization
Much of the mainstream media love failed Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke so much they see the Texas Democrat as the country’s future. “Beto, Beto, Beto.”
Washington Post columnist George Will has a different vision of tomorrow’s political landscape: Colorado and the people who support Democratic Gov.-elect Jared Polis.
The moment Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke lost the election, the media explained how his loss was really a win. Losing would liberate him to run for president.
“Why Beto O’Rourke should run for president in 2020,” gushes a CNN.com headline this week.
“Is Beto O’Rourke the Left’s Obama-like Answer to Trump in 2020?” asks a Vanity Fair headline.
Get a room.
All this Betomania about a man so politically inept he said nothing could be more American than kneeling for the flag at a football game. He said this in … Texas. He pledged to ban “assault” rifles and legalize pot … in Texas, where 201 of 254 counties are partly or fully dry.
Super Beto spent $80 million and lost to Sen. Ted Cruz, who no one can stand and had half as much money.
“I like Ted Cruz more than most of my other colleagues like Ted Cruz. And I hate Ted Cruz,” wrote former Sen. Al Franken in his 2017 autobiography.
Meanwhile, clueless media figures pay little attention to the commanding victory of Polis — whose company Jovian Holdings owns the URL JaredPolisforPresident.com.
Colorado, Will explains, is “increasingly young, urban, educated and diverse.”
“This state is in many ways a glimpse of the nation’s future, so when national Republicans are done congratulating themselves on having lost only the most important half of what the Constitution’s framers considered the most important branch — Congress is accorded Article I for a reason — they should study Colorado’s changing tint, from purple toward blue.”
Will describes the multiple successful entrepreneurial pursuits that made Polis a fortune. He describes Polis as a school-choice advocate who launched charter schools to improve options for immigrant children. He portrays a man who delivers for consumers.
Polis “will now become America’s first openly gay man elected governor, a fact that is interestingly uninteresting to voters,” Will observes.
He reminds readers how Colorado’s penchant for “public-policy pioneering” made it the world’s first jurisdiction to fully legalize the cultivation and sale of pot. In doing so, Colorado ignited a trend spreading through other states and Canada.
Coloradans spend lots of time fussing about “Californication” of our state, despite the fact California is yesterday’s news. The Kansas City Star editorial board this week bemoaned “hipster-friendly” gentrification and “Denverization” of their city.
Republicans nationwide would be wise to take Will’s advice and consider Colorado the harbinger.
Polis and other Democrats conquered Colorado this year by promising better futures regarding health care, the poor, the environment and education. They aren’t all viable and detailed plans, and Democrats have never satisfactorily explained how they will fund most of it. But they spoke of solutions Colorado’s “young, urban, educated and diverse” voters crave.
If Colorado is the future, the GOP will need to win voters with competing plans to deliver more health care at lower costs, to improve education, to protect the environment and to care for the poor. Show young voters what capitalism can and should do for them. They really don’t understand, and conservative leaders have a duty to promise and produce market-based results that speak for themselves.
If Denverization goes nationwide, the right will adapt or die.
(Colorado Springs) The Gazette, Nov. 28
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