Biden to pardon all federal convictions of simple marijuana possession
( NYPost )
The White House announced Thursday that President Biden will take action to pardon about 6,500 people convicted federally for marijuana possession and thousands more under DC local law.
He is also ordering federal agencies to consider changing pot’s Schedule I categorization that lumps it together with such drugs as heroin and LSD.
It is one of the largest mass pardons in history and the subsequent federal review could move the country toward national legalization after 19 states and DC moved to allow the recreational use of the drug under local law.
Biden told The Post in July that he was “working on” fulfilling his 2019 campaign pledge to free “everyone” in federal prison for marijuana offenses — and the president received pressure from Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democratic Senate candidate, to embrace marijuana reform ahead of the midterm elections due to broad public support.
“This is something that the president has talked about and he is following through on his campaign commitment,” a senior administration official told reporters.
“The president is calling on governors to take action as well. This is important as the vast majority of marijuana possession convictions are state convictions,” an official said.
However, the sweeping action stops short of freeing everyone from prison for pot crimes because it will only apply to simple possession, whereas most people in federal prison are accused of distributing the drug.
All 6,500 people expected to be pardoned federally are not currently in prison, an official said, and “there is no individual currently in federal prisons solely for simple possession of marijuana.”
There are 2,700 federal pot inmates, according to a recent congressional estimate, including some with life sentences, including Pedro Moreno, 62, who distributed marijuana imported from Mexico from 1986 to 1996. Another federal inmate, Luke Scarmazzo, 42, has served 14 years of a 22-year sentence for running a medical marijuana business in California.
Pardons alleviate various tangential consequences of a criminal conviction for housing, employment, and other issues.
Biden as a senator authored or advocated for some of the nation’s harshest drug laws in the 1980s and ’90s, but he pivoted ahead of the 2020 election with promises of mass clemency as he fended off younger Democratic rivals who supported legalization.
Biden said on a debate stage in 2019: “I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period. And I think everyone — anyone who has a record — should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out.”
Members of both political parties support — and oppose — cannabis policy reform.
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) is pushing legislation to release current federal pot inmates and President Donald Trump last year commuted the sentences of seven people serving life terms for marijuana — including two men who were given life without parole under the three-strikes provision of the Biden-authored 1994 crime law.
A recent Gallup poll found that 68% of Americans, including half of Republicans, support legalizing pot, and federal legalization is widely considered inevitable due to overwhelming support among younger adults.