Routt County district attorney has no plans to eradicate past marijuana convictions
December 6, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The district attorney representing Routt, Moffat and Grand counties said he has no plans to wipe criminal records of minor marijuana-related convictions despite other Colorado jurisdictions doing just that.
"In my view, existing law gives appropriate avenues for those convicted to seal their convictions," 14th Judicial District Attorney Brett Barkey wrote in an email.
The state of Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2014.
The Denver Post recently reported that Denver Mayor Michael Hancock was considering expunging the records of 10,000 people who were convicted in municipal court of low-level marijuana crimes between 2001 and 2013.
"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," Hancock was quoted as saying in a news release. "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."
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It is unclear how many people would be affected by a similar decision in Routt County because the court was not immediately able to pull the records, but local law enforcement officials have opinions about what is being done in Denver and Boulder.
"I would like to see the justification from those supporting the removal of criminal conviction records for actions that constituted a criminal offense at a time when their actions were in fact a crime," Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins said. "I am having a difficult time understanding this logic. At first glance, my thought is that this type of action might set an unwanted and burdensome precedent going forward."
Wiggins contends that people convicted of marijuana crimes in the past were convicted when crimes like possession were still illegal.
"I can think of many examples where laws have changed over the years, making actions that were prohibited 30 years ago … lawful today and vice versa," Wiggins said. "Personally, I think this is politically charged, but I will reserve making an argument one way or the other until I have seen support for the change."
Steamboat Police Chief Cory Christensen said he was not opposed to the records being sealed.
“We are not talking about crimes of the century,” Christensen said. “I would not be opposed to something the district attorney wants to do. It really lies in his court.”
The Denver Post reported there are currently avenues to have marijuana cases throughout the state sealed thanks to a new law passed in 2017, but the process can be burdensome, and people are required to pay filing fees.
Denver and Boulder are trying to eliminate that burden by automatically eliminating the low-level misdemeanor convictions.
Earlier this year, San Francisco, San Diego and Seattle decided to clear past marijuana-related misdemeanor convictions.