President Joe Biden is taking steps to address racial disparities in the justice system by granting pardons to thousands of individuals who were convicted of marijuana use and simple possession on federal lands and in the District of Columbia. The White House announced on Friday that these executive clemencies aim to rectify the unjust consequences faced by individuals due to their marijuana convictions.
This latest categorical pardon builds upon a similar round of pardons issued just before the 2022 midterm elections, which made thousands of individuals convicted of simple possession on federal lands eligible for pardons. However, Friday’s action expands the scope of offenses eligible for a pardon, thereby increasing the number of individuals who can have their convictions expunged. In addition to this, President Biden is also granting clemency to 11 individuals serving disproportionately long sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.
President Biden, in a statement, highlighted the significance of these actions in achieving equal justice. He acknowledged that criminal records for marijuana use and possession have created unnecessary barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. He emphasized the need to correct the failures of the current approach to marijuana, which has adversely impacted numerous lives.
It is important to note that last year’s pardons did not result in any individuals being released from prison. However, they were intended to assist thousands in overcoming obstacles related to finding employment or securing housing. Similarly, no federal prisoners will be eligible for release as a result of Friday’s action.
President Biden’s pardon applies specifically to marijuana, a substance that has been decriminalized or legalized for various uses in many states. Nevertheless, it remains classified as a controlled substance under federal law. The U.S. regulators are actively considering reclassifying marijuana from its current designation as a “Schedule I” drug, which implies “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” to the less tightly regulated “Schedule III.”
Importantly, the pardon does not extend to individuals who were unlawfully present in the U.S. at the time of their offense. Those who meet the eligibility criteria can submit their applications to the Justice Department’s pardon attorney office, which will issue certificates of pardon upon review.
President Biden also used this opportunity to urge governors and local leaders to follow suit and take similar actions in erasing marijuana convictions. He emphasized that just as no one should be incarcerated in federal prisons solely due to marijuana use or possession, the same should hold true for local jails and state prisons.
In conclusion, President Biden’s latest round of pardons demonstrates his commitment to addressing racial disparities in the justice system and rectifying the unjust consequences faced by individuals convicted of marijuana offenses. By granting pardons to thousands and calling upon governors and local leaders to take similar actions, he aims to make equal justice a reality and eliminate the unnecessary barriers imposed by criminal records related to marijuana use and possession.