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$10 Million Reimbursed for Vacated Washington Drug Possession Convictions

by David M. Reutter

In September 2023, just two months into a program to rebate fines and fees for vacated drug convictions, Washington state courts had paid out more than $9.4 million. That’s nearly 20% of a $50 million fund created by state lawmakers after the state Supreme Court found the law criminalizing drug possession unconstitutional in State v. Blake, 197 Wn.2d 170, 481 P.3d 521 (2021).

At least 260,000 felony convictions and 126,000 misdemeanor convictions were affected dating back to 2012, when state voters legalized marijuana for adult recreational use. Anyone convicted prior to February 25, 2021, is eligible to have the conviction vacated, including prisoners. Refunds of associated legal financial obligations (LFOs) reflect lawmakers’ intent to shift focus from criminalizing drug use to treating it as a public health concern.

Getting a refund is a two-step process. Anyone with an affected conviction must first apply to have it vacated with the court that handed it down. Once that is complete, application may be made for LFO reimbursement. In addition to the $50 million fund for that, the state legislature set aside another $49 million to process refunds through the state Administrative Office of Courts. An online portal was set up to accept and process refund applications at

During the 2023 legislative session, lawmakers passed another bill to protect job applicants from discrimination during the hiring process over lawful marijuana use. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed SB 5123 into law on May 9, 2023; it took effect at the beginning of 2024. Inslee also approved legislation that authorizes interstate cannabis commerce in the event of a federal policy change. Another approved bill promotes research into psilocybin—commonly known as “magic mushrooms”—and created a pilot program to provide therapeutic access to the psychedelic for mental health treatment.

The Washington Department of Health also announced that $1.3 million was being devoted to funding 11 community-based organizations to promote “youth cannabis [and] commercial tobacco use prevention.” That effort was funded from taxes and fees from legal marijuana sales.   


Additional sources: Axios, Filter Magazine

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Related legal case

State v. Blake