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2020 wasn’t all bad: Cannabis possession arrests dropped precipitously

On Behalf of | Oct 14, 2021 | Expungement

The pain of the pandemic and the economic slowdown it caused have ensured that 2020 will be remembered as a historically bad year, but it did have one or two bright spots. One of those bright spots is found in the recently released FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, which shows that arrests for marijuana possession dropped by more than half. It’s good news that far fewer people will have to contend with the judicial system, face punishment and the negative effects of a criminal record.

The bad news is that there were still 226,748 arrests for marijuana possession last year.

Steep and much steeper declines

The steep decline is attributed to two factors: the pandemic and the spread of marijuana decriminalization laws around the country. (Possession of an ounce of less is legal for Washington adults.)

A much steeper decline would take place if three members of our state’s congressional delegation have their way. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Rep. Denny Heck and Rep. Suzan K. DelBene are all co-sponsors of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.

The proposal has cleared the Judiciary Committee in the House. It must gain the approval of the full House and Senate before going to the president.

Here’s what MORE does

The bill decriminalizes marijuana by removing it from the list of prohibited substances in the Controlled Substances Act. MORE also eliminates criminal penalties for possession, manufacturing or distributing cannabis.

That’s quite a lot, but MORE will do even more, including:

  • establishing a process to expunge convictions and hold sentencing review hearings for federal cannabis offenses
  • prohibiting the denial of federal public benefits on the basis of certain cannabis-related convictions
  • prohibiting denial of immigration benefits and protections on the basis of a cannabis-related conviction

You can check out its other provisions here on

According to several media outlets, it’s far from certain that the bill will get congressional approval and be signed into law.