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UPDATE: Resolution to pardon those convicted of minor marijuana offenses passes

Posted at 7:56 AM, Jun 11, 2020

UPDATE JUNE 17: Today, in a unanimous vote, the Nevada State Board of Pardons Commissioners passed an amended resolution put forth by member Gov. Steve Sisolak in which those convicted of minor marijuana offenses would be pardoned.

“Today is an historic day for those who were convicted of what has long been considered a trivial crime, and is now legal under Nevada law,” said Gov. Steve Sisolak. “Since the passage of Question 2 in 2016 and the decriminalization of possession for small amounts of marijuana, many Nevadans have had these minor offenses remain on their records, in some cases as a felony. This resolution aims to correct that and fully restore any rights lost as a result of these convictions.”

“Today we took another step toward justice by pardoning thousands of Nevadans for actions that Nevadans decided should no longer be illegal," said Attorney General Aaron D. Ford. "I'm proud to work alongside Governor Sisolak to make it easier for these Nevadans to get jobs, housing, and financial aid for college. Together, we're making criminal justice reform a priority across Nevada."

Prior to January 1, 2017, the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana was a criminal act that could be charged as a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony depending on additional factors. This resolution extends to persons who were previously convicted for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, and to persons convicted multiple times for this same act.

The resolution summarily pardons thousands of persons previously convicted of this crime — a first for the Nevada State Board of Pardons Commissioners. The Secretary of the Nevada State Board of Pardons Commissioners will create an expedited process for those seeking pardon documents, which will be free of charge and available online.

Other drug crimes are not covered by today’s decision — it is strictly for those previously convicted in the State of Nevada for violations of state and local laws prohibiting the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana not for purpose of sale, including NRS 453.336(4). The resolution does not cover other criminal convictions that may be associated with the underlying marijuana conviction.

Today’s action does not include records sealing, which is outside the scope of the Pardons Board. As a result, although these pardons forgive the underlying crimes, they do not remove the convictions from the person’s criminal records. During the 80th legislative session, the legislature passed and the Governor signed Assembly Bill 192, which provides a streamlined process for sealing convictions for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. This process is entirely free, and can be navigated without the assistance of an attorney.

Today, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak announced that he placed a resolution for consideration on the Board of Pardons Commissioners' agenda next week to provide relief to tens of thousands of people who were previously convicted for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

In 2016, Nevadans voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana through a ballot initiative. A provision of the initiative legalized possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. The governor’s proposed resolution would unconditionally pardon individuals previously convicted of possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, not for purpose of sale.

“The people of Nevada have decided that possession of small amounts of marijuana is not a crime,” Gov. Sisolak said. “If approved, this resolution will clear the slate for thousands of people who bear the stigma of a conviction for actions that have now been decriminalized.”

This comes at a time of mass protests, while many people across the country are demanding lawmakers address systemic racism, particularly with prison reform.

13 Action News spoke with a local organization called NORML who works to reform marijuana laws. They say this could be a step in the right direction when repairing trust with law enforcement, and a way to address some racial inequities.

"This is so pivotal right now in today's world," says Madisen Saglibene, with Nevada NORML. "Black and brown lives are 4 times more likely to be arrested for a simple marijuana charge, which can be stacked with another charge, and can lead to incarceration. This has led to a generational impact on our society."

Gov. Sisolak has not yet said why he wants to make these pardon, but the Nevada Board of Pardons will discuss the resolution next week.

The Nevada Board of Pardons Commissioners is comprised of the governor, the justices of the Supreme Court, and the attorney general. The board has been granted statutory authority to pardon or otherwise grant clemency to individuals for prior criminal convictions.