Biden extends pardon for select marijuana offenses and grants clemency to non-violent offenders

President Biden announced on Friday that he intends to commute the sentences of nearly a dozen individuals who have been serving lengthy prison terms for non-violent drug offenses, which he described as “disproportionally long.” The move comes after the president signed a proclamation to pardon certain marijuana offenses, building on his October 2022 action to pardon thousands of Americans for simple marijuana possession. The White House has specified that the expanded pardon only applies to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, and does not extend to non-citizens.

The new pardon covers federal and Washington, D.C. offenses for “simple possession of marijuana, attempted simple possession of marijuana, or use of marijuana.” This will include individuals who committed offenses after President Biden’s initial October 2022 pardon. However, it does not apply to those who have been jailed for selling marijuana nor does it include other marijuana-related offenses such as driving under the influence of an illegal substance. Additionally, individuals who violated state law are not included in the pardon’s scope.

President 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.” He also urged governors to follow suit by addressing state offenses related to marijuana.

The President’s decision to pardon certain marijuana offenses comes amid a potential reclassification of marijuana as a Schedule III substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which is currently reviewing a recommendation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reclassify the drug.

Speaking on this matter, President Biden stated, “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.”

The move is in line with Biden’s electoral promises to decriminalize cannabis use and automatically expunge prior convictions. Former President Donald Trump, who is positioned as the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican Party, has expressed concerns about the potentially damaging effects of marijuana use, despite growing public support for legalization.

At the state level, the recreational or adult use of cannabis has been legalized in 24 states and the District of Columbia, while medical use has been legalized in 40 states and the District of Columbia. Most recently, Kentucky’s governor signed a legalization bill in a bid to reduce reliance on addictive opioids.

Overall, President Biden’s decision to grant pardons for certain marijuana offenses reflects the ongoing debate around drug policy in the United States and the shifting attitudes towards marijuana legalization and criminal justice reform. It signals a significant departure from previous administrations’ approaches to drug-related offenses and sets the stage for potential changes at the federal level.


Hot News