Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is exploring whether to release nearly 40 inmates convicted of nonviolent marijuana offenses.
The desire to commute the sentences is a policy statement on marijuana from the Democrat’s administration as well as a reflection of the state’s overcrowded prisons. And it may prompt untold others to seek pardons for past marijuana-related crimes.
“Right now, we have not enough room left in our prisons. So if what these people are serving serious time for wasn’t violent — is no longer illegal — maybe we should be looking at (whether) it safe to release them,” he said in an interview with The Denver Post.
In November, Hickenlooper issued pardons to seven people convicted of marijuana possession who applied to have their past crimes forgiven. But now, the governor is taking a more proactive approach.
The administration identified about 40 inmates who are serving prison sentences only for marijuana crimes, whether possession or sale. Hickenlooper’s attorneys are currently examining the details of the cases as well as the inmates’ conduct in prison. If satisfied, the administration would invite the inmates to apply for clemency.
“We are talking about going out and finding people who are still in prison, and saying, ‘If you want to apply we think your application will have favor,’” Hickenlooper said.
The governor’s office staff first broached the idea with Hickenlooper months ago, and Hickenlooper publicly acknowledged his support earlier this week in an interview with Cheddar, a streaming television channel.
A week ago, San Francisco and San Diego announced thousands of people with misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession will automatically have their criminal records cleared now that recreational pot is legal in California.
Hickenlooper may see an uptick in requests for pardons for marijuana-related crimes before he leaves offices in January, saying it is “reasonable that people should want that.”
In June, the governor signed into law a measure that allows offenders to petition the district court to seal criminal records related to convictions for misdemeanor use or possession of marijuana that would no longer be illegal.