Lawmakers, marijuana organizations urge Biden to issue marijuana pardons

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Thirty-seven lawmakers signed a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to issue a general pardon for all federal, nonviolent marijuana offenses.

In the letter, Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chairs Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) wrote that a mass pardon is a racial justice issue and “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 lawmakers reminded Biden that past presidents have used the pardon power for marijuana offenses.

“This is not a partisan issue; every President since George H.W. Bush has exercised their pardoning power for cannabis offenses. There is legal and scholarly support for the use of a blanket pardon on the War on Drugs.”

Issuing pardons for federal cannabis charges would fulfill a promise that Biden made during a Democratic primary debate.

“During your campaign, you committed that you would “automatically expunge all past marijuana convictions for use and possession,” the letter states. “Therefore, we urge you to grant executive clemency for all nonviolent cannabis offenders. We look forward to working with you and the incoming Attorney General on quickly making this a reality.”

Marijuana reform and advocacy groups, including NORML, the Minority Cannabis Business Association, and the National Cannabis Industry Association, also reminded President Biden of his campaign promises in a letter sent on Presidents’ Day.

“President Biden, we urge you to clearly demonstrate your commitment to criminal justice reform by immediately issuing a general pardon to all former federal, nonviolent cannabis offenders in the U.S. In addition, all those who are federally incarcerated on nonviolent, cannabis-only offenses for activity now legal under state laws should be pardoned and their related sentences commuted.”

Without pardons, the harm done during the war on drugs continues to impact communities of color disproportionately, reform advocates say in the letter.

“Criminal histories related to cannabis can be particularly harmful for individuals, despite the change in laws in many states. Convictions can seriously limit job opportunities, housing, and educational options. Long after a person has gone through the legal system, the baggage of the war on marijuana continues to undermine that person’s life and diminish their prospects. It is past time for the harm to stop.”

Other signatories of the letter sent by lawmakers include House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), House Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern (D-MA), Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), and Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Luis Correa (D-CA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).