In October of 2022, President Biden pardoned many federal and D.C. offenses for simple marijuana possession. On December 22, 2023, President Biden expanded the crimes eligible for pardons. This is another move by the administration meant to rectify racial disparities in the United States criminal justice system. Those with convictions for marijuana use and possession have continued to face consequences once they are released such as difficulties with obtaining housing, employment, or educational resources and opportunities. In recent years, the landscape of marijuana laws has continued its rapid change. Thirty-eight states have embraced medical marijuana and twenty-four have legalized adult recreational use. Marijuana remains a federally controlled substance, but President Biden calls the federal stance on marijuana a “failed approach.”
Even under the Biden administration’s December expansion, crimes of possession with intent to distribute, or other trafficking crimes involving marijuana are not eligible for pardon under the December Proclamation. Additionally, the pardons to do not apply to those convicted of state court crimes. Those eligible for pardons are those whose offenses were committed before December 22, 2023, even if they have not yet been convicted. The pardons do not apply to crimes committed after that date.
If you or a loved one has a pardonable conviction, you can apply for a Certificate of Pardon from the Office of the Pardon Attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice. In the same December action, President Biden granted executive clemency to 11 people serving “disproportionately long” sentences for non-violent drug offense, meaning that if those persons were sentenced for their crimes today, their sentences would have been far shorter. If you or a loved one would like to seek relief under the similar circumstances, you can apply for a shorter sentence here.
While this is another step on the road to curing the racial inequities caused by the federal drug sentencing policies and stemming from failed War on Drugs, the work is far from over. The harsh mandatory minimum sentencing policies in drug cases continues to fuel the explosion of prison population growth in the United States. Too many of our black and brown community members continue to serve harsh sentences for non-violent drug offenses. We hope to continue to see the Biden Administration challenge the status quo and bring people back home to their communities.