DENVER (CBS4) - On Thursday, Gov. Jared Polis signed an order pardoning nearly 3,000 marijuana convictions. The order applies to state level cases, where a person was in possession of less than one ounce of marijuana before it was legalized in Colorado.
"Too many Coloradans have been followed their entire lives by a conviction for something that is no longer a crime," Polis said in a statement.
Michael Diaz-Rivera knows firsthand the impact, "I remember that night sitting in the jail cell just knowing that I had already burned so many bridges."
In 2006, when he was just 19 years old, he was caught with less than one ounce of marijuana.
"It was probably not even a half an ounce that I had, but the fact that it was in different bags is what they used to make it a distribution charge," he said.
At the advice of his attorney, he took a deal and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge; possession of more than 8 ounces of marijuana. A felony that follows him to this day, despite changes in Colorado law legalizing marijuana.
"Just having that felony has had major impacts. It has kept me from employment, housing… kept me from schooling," Diaz-Rivera said.
He's now a father, a college graduate and works as a teacher. Each step taking time and extra effort because of his record.
"If I didn't have that felony, I'm sure that I would be in a different place then I am right now," he said.
Recently, Colorado lawmakers started looking back at those cases.
Jordan Wellington helped lobby for a bill that would address inequities in the cannabis industry, but also gave the governor power to issue mass pardon marijuana convictions.
"This is a great first step. I don't think anyone thinks this is mission accomplished, but it's important to pause and realize it's a massive victory for victims of cannabis prohibition. Some of these convictions date back to the 70s," he said.
Diaz-Rivera knows his record won't change, but news that those of nearly 3,000 others will, gives him a new outlook on the future.
With the announcement from the Governor's office comes guidance on how to determine if you may be eligible for a pardon included below:
Individuals who are unsure whether a conviction on their record has been pardoned may fill out a form to request confirmation of a pardon on the CBIRecordsCheck.com. Once a conviction is pardoned, it will not appear on a criminal history obtained on the records check website.
For further questions visit the FAQ document.
Visit COMarijuanaPardons.com for more information.
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