presidential pardons, Joe Biden, president

Biden Grants Pardons And Clemency For Offenders Convicted of Marijuana Charges

Under the new pardon, federal prisoners aren't eligible for release.

President Joe Biden issued a proclamation on Dec. 22 giving pardons to inmates convicted of marijuana-related charges under federal and D.C. law.

White House officials said the new proclamation is an expansion of actions taken by the president in 2022 on simple cannabis charges, issuing pardons for offenses like use and possession on certain federal lands. No one was released from prison under those actions, according to the Associated Press, but those pardons were created to help offenders overcome obstacles when looking to purchase a home or secure employment.

Under the new pardon, federal prisoners aren’t eligible for release.

U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who committed or were convicted of simple possession, attempted simple possession, or use of marijuana will now be pardoned regardless of whether the offender has been charged or prosecuted yet. Offenders who have state convictions, charges of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, or driving while under the influence aren’t included this time.

The new order only applies to marijuana, which has been decriminalized or legalized in several states. However, under federal law, the drug is classified as a controlled substance. U.S. regulators are studying what needs to be done to reclassify marijuana. Currently, the drug is deemed as “Schedule I” – or having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” – to the lesser regulated “Schedule III.”

In a statement, Biden is pushing for governors to move on state marijuana laws. “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,” Biden said.

Vice President Kamala Harris shares the same views. “As I have declared many times before, no one should be in prison simply for smoking weed,” she said. “That is why we continue to call on Governors to join us in this long-overdue work.”

On top of the pardons, Christmas came early for 11 people after Biden granted them clemency for serving what he describes as “disproportionately long” sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. Those individuals would have been eligible for shorter sentences if they were charged under recent reforms.

“Criminal records for marijuana use and possession have imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities,” the president said. “Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs.”

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