Joe Biden grants pardon to individuals convicted of the use and simple possession of marijuana

By Esther Muhozi
On 27 December 2023 at 08:17

President Joe Biden has granted pardon to numerous individuals convicted of the use and simple possession of marijuana on federal lands and in the District of Columbia, according to an announcement from the White House on Friday. This move represents the latest series of executive clemencies aimed at addressing racial disparities within the justice system.

In a statement, President Biden emphasized that these actions are designed to turn the "promise of equal justice" into a tangible reality.

He expressed concern about the unnecessary barriers to employment, housing, and education created by criminal records related to marijuana use and possession. Biden underscored the need to rectify the repercussions of the nation’s past approach to marijuana, stating, "Too many lives have been disrupted. It’s time that we correct these injustices."

It’s important to note that Biden’s order specifically pertains to marijuana, a substance that has been decriminalized or legalized in many states for various uses. However, it continues to be classified as a controlled substance under federal law. The federal government is currently exploring the possibility of reclassifying marijuana from "Schedule I" (deemed to have "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse") to the less restrictive "Schedule III."

Notably, this pardon does not extend to individuals who were unlawfully present in the U.S. at the time of their marijuana-related offense. While Biden’s proclamation effectively pardons those covered by the executive order, individuals will need to submit applications to the Justice Department’s pardon attorney office to receive official certificates of pardon. These certificates can be utilized for housing and employment purposes.

President Biden also took the opportunity on Friday to reiterate his call to governors and local leaders to follow suit and take measures to expunge marijuana convictions. He emphasized the need for a comprehensive approach, stating, "Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the use or possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either."