Biden Issues Pardons For Federal Marijuana Offenses

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Biden Issues Pardons For Federal Marijuana Offenses

In a groundbreaking announcement on Friday, President Joe Biden issued unconditional pardons for individuals who have used, possessed, or attempted to possess marijuana on federal lands, irrespective of whether they have faced convictions or charges. The move follows Biden’s earlier pardons in 2022 for federal offenders convicted of simple marijuana possession, demonstrating a commitment to rectifying the consequences of outdated policies.

Breaking Down Barriers: A Presidential Proclamation

President Biden, in a statement, highlighted the detrimental impact of criminal records related to marijuana on 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,” Biden asserted, emphasizing the need to remove unnecessary obstacles to individuals seeking to rebuild their lives.

The pardons, however, do not extend to more serious marijuana offenses, such as possession with intent to sell or driving under the influence. Additionally, noncitizens unlawfully present in the country at the time of their offense are excluded from the pardons. The geographical scope of the pardons is limited to offenses committed in the District of Columbia and other lands under federal jurisdiction, excluding the majority of arrests and convictions at the local and state levels.

Biden Issues Pardons For Federal Marijuana Offenses: Beyond Prison Walls

While the announcement is not expected to result in the immediate release of individuals from federal prisons, it holds significant implications for thousands whose charges or past convictions continue to hinder employment and housing opportunities. President Biden urged governors to follow suit at the state level, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive reform approach to marijuana offenses.

A Data Snapshot: Declining Federal Offenses

As of January 2022, a U.S. Sentencing Commission report revealed that no individuals were in federal custody solely for simple marijuana possession. The number of federal offenders sentenced for such possession has been on a downward trend over the past decade, dropping from 2,172 in fiscal year 2014 to 145 in fiscal year 2021.

The Path to Reform: DOJ Contemplates Marijuana Rescheduling

Simultaneously, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is considering recommendations from federal health regulators to ease restrictions on marijuana. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) within the DOJ is evaluating a proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services to move marijuana from the restrictive Schedule I tier to the less stringent Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act.

Biden Issues Pardons For Federal Marijuana Offenses: Addressing Nonviolent Drug Offenses

In an additional move on Friday, President Biden granted clemency to 11 individuals serving sentences for nonviolent drug offenses related to the sale of harder drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine. This broader approach signals a commitment to a more comprehensive and nuanced strategy in addressing drug-related convictions.