Biden’s Nationwide Pardon on Marijuana Use—What You Need to Know

President Joe Biden announced a federal pardon on Friday for all Americans who have used marijuana in the past, extending the clemency to those who were never charged or prosecuted. 

This broad amnesty encompasses US citizens, lawful permanent residents, and residents in the District of Columbia found in possession of marijuana for personal use or convicted of similar federal offenses.

However, the pardon excludes individuals incarcerated for marijuana sale, which remains illegal federally, and offenses such as driving under the influence of the substance. 

The implications of this pardon are substantial, particularly in addressing the barriers that criminal records for marijuana use and possession pose to employment, housing, and educational opportunities.

Biden’s directive, building on last year’s similar pardon, is even more comprehensive, forgiving all instances of simple marijuana use or possession under federal law, including cases where charges were never brought. 

Notably, it also expands the scope to cover minor marijuana offenses committed on federal property.

While heralded as a positive step by advocates, the pardons do not extend to violations of state law. To receive proof of pardon, individuals must apply through the Department of Justice. 

The White House estimates that thousands of people with federal and district convictions will be eligible for these pardons.

In a statement, President Biden emphasized the injustice of imprisoning individuals solely for marijuana use or possession and called on governors to forgive state offenses.

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Biden’s Pardon Fuels Marijuana Policy Reform Discussions

President Joe Biden announced a federal pardon on Friday for all Americans who have used marijuana in the past, extending the clemency to those who were never charged or prosecuted.

Additionally, Biden commuted the sentences of 11 individuals serving lengthy terms for nonviolent drug offenses.

The Congressional Black Caucus welcomed the move as a positive step towards addressing racial disparities in drug sentencing, particularly related to crack and powder cocaine. 

The ACLU acknowledged the significance of Biden’s actions in correcting past injustices but emphasized the need for Congress to change laws preventing the Justice Department from reverting to higher sentences for crack offenses.

To participate in Biden’s program, marijuana users must follow an application process outlined by the Department of Justice to obtain a certificate confirming their pardon under the president’s broader order. 

The proclamation stipulates that the attorney general will review applications and issue certificates to eligible applicants.

This move aligns with broader discussions around marijuana reform, with the Biden administration recommending earlier this year that the DEA reschedule marijuana to a lower offense. 

As public opinion continues to shift, with a record 70% of Americans supporting marijuana legalization, this decision reflects changing attitudes toward drug policy in the US

Recreational marijuana use is now legal in 24 states and the District of Columbia, while medical marijuana is permitted in 38 states.

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