President Biden Expands Cannabis Pardon, Urges Governors to Address Marijuana Convictions

The White House's expanded proclamation focuses on federal and Washington, D.C. marijuana possession offenses, excluding non-citizens unlawfully present during their offense and cases of distribution or DUI, and covers post-October 2022 offenses while aiming to promote justice and public safety.

President Joe Biden
Image Credits: Oliver Contreras/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

In a recent statement, President Joe Biden called on governors to address the injustice of criminal records for marijuana use and possession. He stated that such records have imposed unnecessary barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. “It’s time that we correct these injustices,” said Biden. To this end, the president announced an expansion of his earlier pardon initiative covering federal cannabis possession offenses.

Urging Governors to Take Similar Actions for State Offenses

Biden emphasized the importance of tackling this issue at the federal level, state prisons, and local jails. “Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely because of the use or possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for the same reason,” he added. The president applauded governors who have taken similar actions in their states and reiterated his call for others to follow suit.

Limits and Applicability of the Expanded Proclamation

The expanded proclamation issued by the White House clarifies that it does not apply to non-citizens who were unlawfully present in the United States at the time of their offense. It also excludes cases involving intent to distribute or driving offenses under the influence of marijuana. Instead, the focus is on federal and Washington, D.C. offenses related to simple possession, attempted possession, or use of marijuana.

This means that the expanded pardon covers individuals who committed cannabis possession crimes even after Biden’s initial pardon in October 2022. The administration will continue reviewing clemency petitions and implementing reforms to promote equal justice, address racial disparities, enhance public safety, and improve the well-being of all Americans.

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Biden’s Previous Actions on Cannabis Possession Offenses and Clemency

In the year since pardoning several thousand people convicted of federal cannabis possession offenses, President Biden has commuted the sentences of 11 individuals serving disproportionately long sentences for non-violent drug offenses. He has also issued a proclamation pardoning additional offenses related to simple possession and use of marijuana under federal and D.C. law. The expanded pardon announced last Friday is another step in this ongoing effort to address injustices tied to marijuana possession convictions.

Advocates Applaud Pardon Expansion But Seek Comprehensive Decriminalization

The immediate response to Friday’s expanded pardon has been largely consistent with the reaction to Biden’s initial act of clemency. Advocates view it as another positive step but believe that comprehensive marijuana decriminalization should also be pursued alongside these efforts. They argue that although the expanded pardon helps mitigate some of the harms caused by criminal records for cannabis use and possession, it does not eliminate the need for systemic changes in the way marijuana is regulated and treated under the law.

What Is Next for Marijuana Decriminalization and Pardons?

As the Biden administration moves forward with its expanded pardon initiative and encourages governors to take similar actions in their states, advocates will no doubt continue pushing for more significant changes at both the state and federal levels. For now, though, the expansion of the president’s earlier pardon initiative signals that the fight for marijuana decriminalization and justice reform is far from over.

President Joe Biden’s recent expansion of his cannabis possession pardon initiative marks an important milestone in the ongoing battle for fairer treatment of marijuana offenses in the United States. By urging governors to follow suit with state-level action and initiating reforms that challenge longstanding racial and social disparities, Biden has renewed hope for many Americans affected by these outdated convictions. Although there is still much work to be done, the administration’s latest move is a testament to the unequivocal momentum behind marijuana decriminalization in recent years.

Rita Ferreira

Rita Ferreira

Rita is a seasoned writer with over five years of experience, having worked with globally renowned platforms, including Forbes and Miister CBD. Her deep knowledge of hemp-related businesses and passion for delivering accurate and concise information distinguish her in the industry. Rita's contributions empower individuals and companies to navigate the complexities of the cannabis world, and her work remains a valuable resource for those seeking a deeper understanding of its potential.

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