Biden expands pardons for federal cannabis charges

Posted on December 22nd, 2023 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , .

BidenPresident Joe Biden announced Dec. 21 a new pardon policy for federal cannabis offenses. Biden stated: "Criminal records for marijuana use and possession have imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It's time that we right these wrongs."

This expands Biden's similar mass pardon of all federal offenses for simple cannabis possession issued in October 2022. The new proclamation goes further in that it forgives all instances of simple cannabis use or possession under federal law or on federal land, including anywhere in Washington DC—and extends to those who have never been charged.

The move is still largely symbolic. Implicitly acknowledging that the overwhelming majority of cannabis-related arrests and convictions occur at the state level, Biden called upon officials in the 50 states to take similar steps: "Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the use or possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either. That’s why I continue to urge Governors to do the same with regard to state offenses and applaud those who have since taken action."

Estimates provided at that time of the October 2022 directive by the US Sentencing Commission suggested that nearly 7,000 people with low-level federal cannabis-related convictions would be eligible for relief. In March of this year, the Justice Department opened an online portal for eligible applicants to apply for pardon certificates.

The new proclamation also announces commutation of the sentences of 11 individuals serving prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.

According to publicly available data compiled by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), state and local officials have issued approximately 100,000 marijuana-related pardons and more than 2.3 million marijuana-related expungements since 2018.

"Millions of Americans carry the burden and stigma of a past conviction for behavior that the majority of voters no longer believe should be a crime," NORML's deputy director Paul Armentano said in response to Biden's new proclamation. "Our sense of justice and our principles of fairness demand that public officials and the courts move swiftly to right the past wrongs of cannabis prohibition and criminalization." (NORML, NYT, USA Today)



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