Biden pardons thousands of convicted marijuana charges on federal lands and in Washington

(Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press)

Biden pardons thousands of convicted marijuana charges on federal lands and in Washington


Dec. 22, 2023



Biden has pardoned thousands of people convicted of marijuana use and possession on federal lands and in the District of Columbia, the White House said Friday, in his latest round of executive clemency aimed at narrowing racial disparities in to correct the legal system.

The categorical pardon builds on a similar round issued just before the 2022 midterm elections that pardoned thousands of convicts for simple possession on eligible federal lands. Friday’s action expands the criminal offenses covered by the pardon. Biden is also granting clemency to 11 people who the White House says are serving disproportionately long sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.

Biden said in a statement that his actions would help make the promise of equal justice a reality.

Criminal records for marijuana use and possession have created unnecessary barriers to employment, housing and educational opportunities, Biden said. Too many lives have been turned upside down because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time we right these wrongs.

No one was released from prison in last year’s operation, but the pardon was intended to help thousands of people overcome obstacles to renting a home or finding a job. Nor will federal prisoners be eligible for release as a result of Friday’s pardons.

But the order expands the grounds on which pardons are granted. In the last round, people were pardoned for simple possession under only one criminal statute. Friday’s pardon also applies to several other criminal laws, including attempted simple possession.

Biden’s order applies only to marijuana, which has been decriminalized or legalized in many states for some or all uses but is still a controlled substance under federal law. U.S. regulators are investigating the drug’s reclassification from the category of drugs considered to have no current medical use and a high potential for abuse, known as Schedule I, to the less tightly regulated Schedule III.

The pardon also does not apply to those who were unlawfully in the US at the time of their offense.

Biden’s proclamation essentially pardons those covered, but they will have to apply to the Justice Department’s pardon attorney to receive pardon certificates that can be used for housing and employment purposes.

Biden on Friday reiterated his call for governors and local leaders to take similar steps to expunge marijuana convictions.

Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely for using or possessing marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, Biden said.


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