President Joe Biden granted full pardons for all persons federally convicted of prior marijuana possession Thursday.
Biden said people should not be jailed for simple marijuana possession and urged U.S. governors to grant pardons, as well.
“Just as no one should be in a Federal prison solely due to the possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either,” Biden said Thursday. “Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs.”
First: I’m pardoning all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession. There are thousands of people who were previously convicted of simple possession who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result. My pardon will remove this burden.
— President Biden (@POTUS) October 6, 2022
The president said he has asked the Attorney General’s office to begin working on certificates of pardons for more than 6,000 incarcerated people who qualify.
He also asked the Attorney General and Secretary of Health and Human Services to review marijuana’s current federal classification, as it is currently on the same level as drugs such as LSD, heroin and methamphetamine, which the president proclaimed to be “most dangerous.”
“The Attorney General, acting through the Pardon Attorney, shall review all properly submitted applications and shall issue certificates of pardon to eligible applicants in due course,” Biden said.
The language of the proclamation would only apply to U.S. citizens, saying it will not apply to individuals who were “non-citizens not lawfully present in the U.S. at the time of their offense.”
“This is a big victory,” the ACLU tweeted after Biden’s proclamation. “No one should be incarcerated for marijuana possession. Still, more needs to be done.”
Since its inception, the War on Drugs has robbed hundreds of thousands of people of liberty and freedom.
Governors and the President have the power to right the wrongs of past policies and fight for justice for all. They must use this power.
— ACLU (@ACLU) October 6, 2022
What the Cannabis World Is Saying
Troy Datcher, CEO of The Parent Company
“We applaud President Biden’s historic announcement granting mass pardons to Americans that have been convicted of federal cannabis possession. This is a critical first step towards addressing the wrong of The War on Drugs, which over decades resulted in the disproportionate incarceration of communities of color in America. We encourage Governors across the country to follow President Biden’s lead and pardon those convicted of cannabis possession at the state level, which comprise the vast majority of those convicted of cannabis crimes. We are also highly encouraged that President Biden is initiating a review of the federal scheduling of cannabis.
Morgan Paxhia, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Poseidon Investment Management
“The US cannabis industry had an historic day today with President Biden’s actions regarding pardoning and asking for a review of cannabis, currently deemed as a schedule 1 drug. Poseidon has been investing in cannabis since 2014 and this is the most significant step forward we have seen. For the first time, we are seeing action from the executive branch and we believe this step is very significant for further policy progress coming out of the legislative branches. There is still so much opportunity for the cannabis industry’s growth and progress at the Federal level is so important to the continued journey.”
Brady Cobb, cannabis lobbyist, lawyer and entrepreneur
“I would like to thank and commend President Biden for following through on his campaign pledge to pardon prior federal offenses for marijuana possession. This is a landmark moment for everyone harmed by the unjust policies and tactics of the War on Drugs. Pardoning past prisoners and federal decriminalization are the first steps, but our work is just beginning in terms of achieving full cannabis legalization and seeing the plant removed as schedule 1 substance.”
George Mancheril, CEO & Co-Founder of Bespoke Financial
“This is a huge step towards undoing the human cost and damage of the unsuccessful war on drugs but we expect descheduling cannabis to take significantly longer. While this is a big step in the right direction, with November elections so close and Democrats expected to lose control of Congress, we think legislative change will face significant political headwinds and likely require 2 years to be achieved.”
Bryan Murray, Executive Vice President, Government Relations, Acreage Holdings
“This has been a long time coming. I applaud President Biden’s historic move in pardoning all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession. This decision will chart a new course for so many who have been failed by our country’s policies surrounding the use of cannabis. As the president stated, and for true equality to emerge, now is the time for our states to pardon those in local jails and state prisons, as well as our government to deschedule cannabis as a Schedule I substance. No one should be denied opportunities due to cannabis usage.”
Khari Edwards, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Ayr Wellness
“We are thrilled to see President Biden’s recently announced pardons for Federal cannabis possession, as well as the requests made to states to take action on this issue. This represents a major step in righting the wrongs of the past and amending policies that have negatively impacted so many. Despite cannabis being legal in more than two-thirds of the country, the ‘War on Drugs’ continues to fail our fellow Americans – disproportionately targeting Black and Brown Americans and disenfranchised communities. We often think of a criminal sentence as only the time spent imprisoned, but even after the sentence, people remain in ‘paper handcuffs,’ as their record follows them around, preventing access to basic necessities like jobs, housing and healthcare. These pardons will remove the paper handcuffs and empower people to have a fresh start, providing new opportunities for them, their families, and their loved ones and healing communities.”
John McLeod, Co-Founder & Head of New Markets, Cloud Cannabis
“As a former caregiver, I have witnessed firsthand how heavily patients rely on the plant to treat their chronic medical conditions and believe safe medical access should be provided without the risk of legal repercussions. People have been disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition, and it’s high time these people should be able to live their lives without the burden of their past convictions affecting basic human needs like job opportunities, loans, references, and so on. We view Biden’s pardoning as a huge roadblock getting lifted out of the way and we look forward to the continued effort in reaching this new era of fair and safe cannabis access.”
Kassia Graham, Director, Community & Strategy, Cannaclusive
“President Biden’s move to grant pardons to those with low level cannabis federal offenses, and to review scheduling of the plant, is welcome though overdue. It signals the U.S. is moving towards ending cannabis prohibition. However, myself and others won’t be celebrating until we see the pardons and scheduling review in action. And it’s important to note people will still be in jail for cannabis as the pardon doesn’t cover all offenders.”
“This is a major step forward! Now it’s time to truly dive into restorative harm repair and make sure that access to careers in cannabis or any field is possible for all of those who will be pardoned. And while this milestone is indeed a major victory, we still need to educate society around the deeper harms of the War on Drugs when it comes to resources and reparative justice. While this doesn’t cover all offenders – I do think it’s time to expand this beyond low level offenses through the full legalization of the plant. Removing the stigma will still take all of us. And I truly hope this administration will make even more strides when it comes embedding equity into its framework for legalization going forward.”
Jigar Patel, Co-Founder & CEO of NorCal Cannabis
“While this is a great first step, I believe more political pressure should be applied, and is needed in order to get President Biden to finally stand on the right side of history. This includes calling on him to immediately reinstate the Obama-era Department of Justice memos and guidance, enabling the Department of Veterans Affairs to write cannabis recommendations and changing the rules at Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Education, so that the rights of patients and consumers who live in areas where cannabis is currently state-legal are protected. The latter doesn’t even require Congress to act. Frankly, it is beyond disappointing that President Biden has not done more to protect some of the most vulnerable veterans, patients, students and disenfranchised Americans, who have been unfairly treated and targeted for decades. While we commend President Biden on catching up with where two-thirds of Americans have been – there is a lot of work yet to be done.”
Mason Tvert, partner at VS Strategies, a national cannabis policy and public affairs firm
“The significance of this announcement cannot be overstated. The message behind these pardons is that it was wrong to criminalize people simply for using marijuana. If it was wrong for the federal government to criminalize people for marijuana possession, the next question is whether it is wrong to continue criminalizing people for marijuana possession. This is a question all elected officials will have to consider, and hopefully they’ll arrive at the decision that it’s time to take the next step and end cannabis prohibition entirely. Most Americans recognize that marijuana is a less harmful substance than alcohol, and our nation is slowly but surely starting to treat it that way.
“This development will reverberate around the country and across the globe. For decades, states and other countries have taken their cues on marijuana policy from our federal government, and the head of our federal government is taking the position that people should not have been criminalized for using marijuana.
“The motivation behind this decision is irrelevant because it was the right thing to do. It has been a long time coming, and whether it was politically motivated or not, it is a welcome development. “
Leonard Tannenbaum, AFC Gamma’s Chief Executive Officer
“Hopefully this will invigorate a push for a much needed safe act which has been stuck in congress for years and needs immediate attention from both democrats and republicans”
Joseph Dowling, CEO of CV Sciences
“Our Administration has been slow to pick up its feet and take real action in reviewing its cannabis policy which has harmed thousands of Americans for far too long. Biden’s public statement to pardon all federal offenses of simple marijuana possession is the first significant step towards decriminalization and the possibility of federal legalization. We applaud the President moving in the direction of righting the wrongs of the War on Drugs.”
Robert Beasley, CEO of Fluent
“President Biden has taken a huge step forward in protecting millions of Americans who need access to medicinal cannabis, and I applaud his decision to pardon all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession. As we saw during Covid and most recently in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, cannabis has proven to be an everyday essential for many Americans, and no one should be criminalized for its usage. This historic move will change the lives of so many, and I am hopeful for the future of the industry.”
Toi Hutchinson, President and CEO of the Marijuana Policy Project:
“MPP is grateful for the action President Biden has taken today, which is a historic step forward towards reducing the lasting harm from the failed war on cannabis that has disproportionately impacted Black and Brown people and economically challenged communities across the country. Not only will thousands of lives be improved by removing this burden, but it also sends a powerful message to states that it is time to end prohibition and give people the tools they need to live full productive lives without the shackles of the criminal justice system.
“This news will generate continued momentum in the five states where cannabis is on the ballot in November and should our advocates on the ground be successful, half of all states in our nation will have legalized cannabis.”
Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus:
“Today, President Biden took an important step in the fight to end the federal government’s failed and discriminatory prohibition of cannabis. No president has stepped forward to pardon low-level marijuana offenders at this scale before. At a time when 99% of Americans live in a state where some form of cannabis use is legal, it is unthinkable that anyone—especially predominantly Black, Latinx, and Indigenous Americans—are imprisoned for simple, nonviolent cannabis possession.
“This is a critical important step forward for racial justice in the failed war on drugs that too often targeted people of color, especially Black and Latino men. While this order is welcome and long overdue, it is just the first step of many that this Administration should take.
“We have pending legislation that deals with medical marijuana research and the ability for cannabis businesses to access banking services—both of which have gained support in the House and Senate. The President should embrace and celebrate. It is critical that we put the full force of the federal government behind them.
“There was a time when this was controversial. Yet for several years, the federal government has been left behind by people and states who did not wait. Not only does more than two-thirds of the public support full legalization, even half of American Republicans are also ready to end this chapter of the failed war on drugs. We welcome this action and hope it is the first of several noncontroversial critical steps to promote justice, equity, and rational policy.”
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.