By Karen Stokes
President Joe Biden pardoned thousands of people who were convicted of use and simple possession of marijuana on federal lands and in the District of Columbia, the White House said Friday, in his latest round of executive clemencies meant to rectify racial disparities in the justice system.
This action builds on the President’s commitment to marijuana reform, and his October 2022 Proclamation pardoning simple possession under Federal and D.C. law.
Biden is also granting clemency to 11 people serving what the White House called “disproportionately long” sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.
Due to reforms, each of these clemency recipients would have been eligible for reduced sentences, had they been sentenced today. This clemency grant represents the President’s commitment to addressing unjustified disparities in sentencing.
“America was founded on the principle of equal justice under law. Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect this core value that makes our communities safer and stronger. That is why today I am announcing additional steps I am taking to make the promise of equal justice a reality,” President Biden said.
“The failed War on Drugs began more than 50 years ago when Richard Nixon declared drug abuse public enemy number one. At the time, there were an estimated 300,000 people incarcerated in America. Today, there are approximately 1.8 million, and they are disproportionately Black and Latino,” said Minority Leader of the U.S House of Representatives, Hakeem Jeffries. “Today, President Biden took additional steps forward in undoing the legacy of the failed War on Drugs by commuting the sentences of several individuals with non-violent drug offenses and pardoning additional Americans convicted of simple possession and use of marijuana.
Biden on Friday reiterated his call on governors and local leaders to take similar steps to erase marijuana convictions.
“Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the use or possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either,” Biden said.
The White House says thousands of people with federal and district convictions will be eligible for the pardons, which Biden announced three days before the Christmas holiday.
“I have exercised my clemency power more than any recent predecessor has at this point in their presidency. My Administration will continue to review clemency petitions and deliver reforms that advance equal justice, address racial disparities, strengthen public safety, and enhance the wellbeing of all Americans,” the President said.