President Joe Biden has the power to pardon anyone who has ever been convicted of federal pot crimes, and Congressmembers are encouraging him to do so.
A coalition of 37 lawmakers led by Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chairs Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) penned a letter to Biden asking him to pardon every single person who has been convicted for nonviolent federal weed offenses. The letter explains that even though lawmakers are already working to draft a comprehensive cannabis reform bill, the president could take immediate action on this issue.
“Until the day that Congress sends you a marijuana reform bill to sign, you have a unique ability to lead on criminal justice reform and provide immediate relief to thousands of Americans,” the letter reads, according to Marijuana Moment. “Your Administration has the power to expand on this legacy and issue a general pardon to all former federal, non-violent cannabis offenders in the US and trigger resentencing for all those who remain federally incarcerated on non-violent, cannabis-only offenses for activity now legal under state laws.”
It's standard practice for an outgoing president to issue pardons or commutations during their final term. President Obama granted clemency to nearly 800 people during his last year in office, freeing hundreds who were serving life sentences for selling crack, heroin, or other hard drugs. Trump handed out pardons over the course of his presidency, freeing nearly two dozen people who were serving excessive sentences for minor pot crimes.
But rather than issuing these case-by-case pardons, the letter asks the president to issue a general pardon, based on a similar action taken by President Jimmy Carter to forgive Americans who dodged the Vietnam War draft. In 1977, Carter issued a pardon to anyone who was convicted for intentionally avoiding the draft between 1964 and 1973, providing they could provide suitable documentation to support their claim.
“During your campaign, you committed that you would 'automatically expunge all past marijuana convictions for use and possession,” the lawmakers wrote, according to NORML. “Therefore, we urge you to grant executive clemency for all non-violent cannabis offenders. We look forward to working with you and the incoming Attorney General on quickly making this a reality.”
“President Biden’s leadership on issuing pardons to nonviolent federal marijuana offenders would demonstrate a down payment on his campaign promise to prioritize criminal justice reform and inspire similar justice-oriented actions in a non-partisan fashion around the country,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal in a statement. “Shortly after President Biden’s election, the House of Representatives voted to end the federal prohibition of marijuana. Now in a new legislative session, President Biden should follow their lead and move to immediately provide relief to those who continue to suffer from a criminal record for a nonviolent federal marijuana offense.”
And on President's Day, Biden received a similar letter from cannabis advocacy and industry groups asking him “to clearly demonstrate your commitment to criminal justice reform by immediately issuing a general pardon to all former federal, non-violent cannabis offenders,” Marijuana Moment reports.