President Joe Biden announced full pardons for all U.S. residents who had previously been federally convicted of simple marijuana possession.
The proclamation does a few things for about 6,000 individuals who qualify for their federal convictions from 1992- October 6, 2022, and that time period only. While it does not pardon future offenses, it will pardon any pending charges from October 6 or before, even if a conviction has not yet been reached yet.
As I’ve said before, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.
Today, I’m taking steps to end our failed approach. Allow me to lay them out.
— President Biden (@POTUS) October 6, 2022
As was addressed during a White House teleconference call Thursday, there are currently no individuals who are incarcerated due to federal convictions of simple marijuana possession, meaning the pardons will apply to citizens who have already fully served their time for the offense.
What The Pardon Does Not Do
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a pardon is an “expression of the President’s forgiveness,” and does not change an individual’s conviction, nor proclaim their innocence.
Individuals whose charges include conspiracy, distribution, possession with intent to distribute, or other charges involving marijuana do not qualify for the pardon.
It also does not apply to convictions made by state, or local law as only federal offenses apply.
“President Biden’s proclamation does not pardon convictions under state law, although it does apply to possession of marijuana convictions under the District of Columbia’s criminal code,” the DOJ said Thursday.
The pardon also excludes non-citizens, meaning undocumented immigrants do not qualify for the pardon.
“This pardon does not apply to individuals who were non-citizens, not lawfully present in the U.S. at the time of their offense.”
What The Pardon Does Do
While a pardon does not reverse the conviction, it does remove civil liberty restrictions that typically come from convictions, such as restrictions on the right to vote, hold office, sit on a jury, obtain a license, bond, or employment.
“There are thousands of people who were previously convicted of simple possession who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result,” Biden said Thursday. “My pardon will remove this burden.”
If a qualifying individual needs proof of the pardon, they may ask for a certificate which will be produced by the Attorney General, in collaboration with The Office of the Pardon Attorney.
As of this writing, the Pardon Attorney is in the process of creating applications for a pardon certificate, which will likely be made available on the Justice Department’s website.
What Biden Asked From States
As was addressed earlier, there are no individuals who are currently serving federal prison time for simple marijuana convictions, but more offenses exist at state and local levels. Because of this, President Biden challenged state governors to act on marijuana convictions at the state level.
“I’m calling on governors to pardon simple state marijuana possession offenses,” Biden said Thursday. “Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely for possessing marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either.”
Potentially Changing Marijuana’s Federal Classification
Biden also asked Secretary Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland to review the federal classification of marijuana, which he said was on the same level as “the most dangerous substances.” The White House made it clear that it does not plan to currently de-schedule the substance, but will review it.
“Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances,” Biden said Thursday. “This is the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine – the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic.”
The pro-cannabis proclamation from the president came with a final side note at the end of his statement, which applied to limitations on targeting the youth.
“I’d also like to note that as federal and state regulations change, we still need important limitations on trafficking, marketing, and underage sales of marijuana,” Biden said.
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