It started with a motion filed in April by Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes to scrub the "red mark" that appears on many people's records for misdemeanor pot possession. Now, a seven-judge panel has ruled in favor of Holmes' motion, signing an order earlier this month that effectively vacates all such convictions for cases prosecuted before Washington state legalized marijuana, the AP reports. The ruling by the Seattle Municipal Court to "right the injustices of a drug war that has primarily targeted people of color," per Holmes, could affect about 550 people and clear convictions in cases that took place between 1996—when municipal courts took jurisdiction of such cases from county courts—and 2010, when Holmes took the city attorney job and no longer concentrated on prosecuting those cases.
Holmes had argued in his original filing that even a minor drug conviction "can have significant negative collateral consequences affecting a person's employment opportunities, education options, qualification for government benefits and ... programs, travel, and immigration status." He also cited an ACLU report that noted African-Americans are nearly four times more likely to be busted for marijuana possession than whites, even though both use pot at roughly the same rates. Washington state legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2012. "We've come a long way, and I hope this action inspires other jurisdictions to follow suit," Holmes say, per the Seattle Times. (Read more Seattle stories.)