Most People With Weed Convictions Don’t Qualify For Biden’s Pardons

by | Oct 14, 2022 | Politics

President Joe Biden pardoned every person convicted of simple marijuana possession under federal law last week as policymakers belatedly recognize that people should not have their lives ruined over a drug that is now legal for recreational use in 19 states. Having a criminal conviction imposes “needless barriers to employment, housing and educational opportunities,” Biden said in a statement last Thursday. “And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”AdvertisementThe White House estimates that about 6,500 people convicted under federal law will receive pardons, in addition to those convicted under D.C. law, which relies on federal statutes since the District of Columbia is not a state. No one is currently incarcerated in federal prison solely on simple possession charges, but the pardons could ease some of the challenges people with criminal records face. The pardons do not expunge one’s criminal record, but they do lift restrictions on voting rights and holding office, and could make it easier to get a job or a place to live. The pardons represent a positive step toward acknowledging and rectifying the harm caused by the criminalization of cannabis. But Biden had other relief options for people facing federal marijuana charges that he didn’t take. The pardons do not apply to anyone charged with selling or distributing weed, which accounts for the overwhelming majority of people with federal cannabis-related convictions. The policy also excludes immigrants who were not lawfully in the country at the time of the offense. Biden does not have the power to aid people convicted of marijuana-related crimes in state courts, who far outnumber those who faced federal convictions. He did ask governors to follow his lead in pardoning people with simple possession charges at the state level — and many governors already had, particularly in states where the drug is now legal. In the states that haven’t, most Republican governors are unlikely to heed Biden’s call. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.“I knew it wasn’t going to apply to me when the words ‘simple possession’ continued to come up. But I say, show the same grace to the seller as you do to the consumer,” said Ste …

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