Home Headlines Joe Biden issues pardons to Americans convicted of certain federal marijuana crimes

Joe Biden issues pardons to Americans convicted of certain federal marijuana crimes

by Yucatan Times
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The news on Friday that President Joe Biden is issuing pardons to Americans convicted of certain federal marijuana crimes is a sign the government is advancing its stance on cannabis, but experts say the pardons won’t have as broad an impact as advocates for the decriminalization of marijuana might hope.

Biden said his announcement is part of his larger effort to reform the U.S. criminal justice system to “make the promise of equal justice a reality,” expanding on an earlier proclamation on marijuana use last year.

He also said he was granting clemency to 11 people with nonviolent drug convictions who would likely have received shorter sentences if convicted today.

“Any effort whatsoever to assist those with cannabis-related convictions – whether it’s federal or state – given our evolving attitude towards cannabis, is 100% welcome,” said Patrick Nightingale, a criminal defense attorney in Pittsburgh. “I will take whatever the president can give us, but it’s just not going to affect that many people.”

Nightingale and other experts on cannabis law told USA TODAY it’s relatively rare for the federal government to prosecute people for simple marijuana possession and the other marijuana crimes covered by the proclamation, and it’s not clear how many people the pardons will help.

What does Biden’s pardon for marijuana crimes do?

In October 2022, Biden announced a proclamation that pardoned people convicted of simple possession under federal law. The move Friday expands the types of crimes people can be pardoned for to include attempted simple possession of marijuana and the use of marijuana on federal lands and in Washington, D.C. It doesn’t apply to state-level marijuana convictions.

Biden said he hopes the move will help people with past convictions who have experienced “unnecessary collateral consequences,” including barriers to housing, jobs, and education.

It does not apply to anyone convicted of having marijuana they intended to sell or driving under the influence of marijuana, Biden said.

Anyone who was previously convicted of a relevant federal marijuana charge can apply to the Justice Department and they will be issued a certificate of pardon, which the White House said should clear prior obstacles they faced getting jobs and housing.

Nightingale, who is also a former prosecutor and the director of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said that’s an important part of the proclamation because employers don’t distinguish between a federal conviction for marijuana and a conviction involving another controlled substance.

He said a federal conviction has “long-lasting, if not lifelong-lasting implications for someone who may have made a simple mistake when they were 20, 21 years old,” and the Biden administration’s stance is a step in the right direction toward clearing those barriers for some people.

Who does it help?

The proclamation’s reach is likely limited because it does not apply to people convicted on state charges who make up the bulk of these drug cases, experts said.

When Biden first moved to pardon people convicted for simple federal possession charges last year, nobody was eligible for release from federal prison as a result, but over 6,500 people nationwide may have been able to overcome obstacles to housing or jobs.

It is worth mentioning that the proclamation also doesn’t apply to anyone who was in the U.S. illegally at the time of their offense.

TYT Newsroom

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