President Biden: What Happened To The Promised Pardon For Medical Marijuana Users?
In October, with much fanfare, the president announced plans to grant sweeping pardons to all Americans who have been stigmatized by a federal marijuana possession conviction. The President stated, “There are thousands of Americans who have prior federal convictions for marijuana use, and as a result, they may be denied employment, housing, and educational prospects.”
The results of my convictions have unintended implications, which I hope to mitigate through my actions. The subsequent media craze was immediate and appropriate. Never before had a sitting president so publicly admitted the shortcomings of America’s almost century-long experiment with cannabis prohibition.
Today, around two-thirds of Americans feel the prohibition should be abolished, and about half of all states in the United States have already done so. Not since the Great Depression has a president offered to pardon so many people as a result of a failing policy.
In fact, Susan Rice, director of Biden’s Domestic Policy Council, recently rushed to Twitter to praise the news as one of the administration’s greatest successes of 2022. While many people are happy for the president, the fact remains that none of the 6,557 people who the U.S. Sentencing Commission has recognized as being eligible for presidential pardons have actually been granted one.
Unfortunately, the Justice Department’s website still says, “The Application for Certificate of Pardon for Simple Possession of Marijuana is not yet accessible,” even though Biden’s announcement was made three months ago.
The administration’s lack of prompt action to carry out the pardon directive is deeply disheartening. The president has said before that many people eligible for pardon have lost out on a lot of possibilities because of a conviction for behavior that is no longer seen as criminal by the majority of Americans.
The time they have spent waiting for help should finally be over. However, it is not all bad news. This is because the administration has only made vague promises to pardon and seal the records of previous marijuana offenders, while many states have already begun to implement these policies.
So far, 24 states have implemented legislation that makes it possible for people with minor marijuana convictions to have their convictions expunged or otherwise wiped from their records. Statistics published by NORML show that since 2018, state and local governments have granted over 100,000 pardons and more than 1.7 million expungements linked to marijuana.
Many supporters also think these numbers could rise if Congress passed bipartisan legislation like The HOPE Act, which would give states federal assistance to review and expunge low-level cannabis offenses. There have been about 29 million arrests for marijuana possession or use over the previous few decades. Roughly 90% of those apprehended were charged with misdemeanors related to cannabis possession.
Politicians on all sides of the aisle, and the White House in particular, need to act quickly to reverse the injustices of cannabis criminalization and bring much-needed legal relief to individuals who have suffered unnecessarily as a result of the United States failed marijuana prohibition policies.