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Cannabis Spotlight: Joe Biden Pardons 1000s of Federal Weed Crimes

President Joe Biden announced he is issuing pardons for those with federal “simple” marijuana possession convictions and beginning the process to reclassify cannabis and end weed crimes.

“I am announcing a pardon of all prior federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana. There are thousands of people who have prior Federal convictions for marijuana possession,” he said.

He has directed U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to develop an administrative process for issuing certificates of pardon to eligible individuals.

President Joe Biden also announced that he would encourage state Governors to facilitate similar actions on the state level. Nearly two dozen states have enacted legislation that would expunge, vacant or seal select marijuana convictions.

Advocates Comment

“Many of the efforts taken and proposed by the President today are long overdue,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said.

He noted that NORML has urged Joe Biden to keep his campaign promise to provide relief to those burdened with a low-level cannabis conviction.

“We are pleased that today President Biden is following through on this pledge and that he is also encouraging governors to take similar steps to ensure that the tens of millions of Americans with state-level convictions for past marijuana crimes can finally move forward with their lives,” Altieri noted. “Since 1965, nearly 29 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana-related violations, for activities that the majority of voters no longer believe ought to be a crime.”

“President Biden’s pardons are welcome news,” BOWL PAC Founder Justin Strekal said. “It is critical for governors around the country to do the same. The majority of convictions have been issued under state.. law.”

An estimated 6,500 would be eligible for Joe Biden’s pardon for their petty weed crimes.

Those who believe in social justice have been eager to remove those burdens. They cause someone convicted of weed crimes to go deeper into crime, known as recidivism. It is common after a first conviction. Then it robs an individual of opportunities for student loans, jobs, and housing.

Joe Biden and De/Rescheduling

The President also announced that he plans to address the problem of cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic.

The United States government thinks cannabis has no medical value as a Schedule I narcotic. Despite an abundance of stories pointing to its health benefits, they have persisted in that belief. It has the same classification as crack.

“I am asking the Secretary of Health and Human Services (Xavier Becerra) and the Attorney General to initiate the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law,” Joe Biden said. “Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances. This is the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine, the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic.”

Legalization Nuances

It is unclear where the review process will go exactly. Nor is it clear how long it will take.

Cannabis could be reclassified as a Schedule II Controlled Substance. The state cannabis markets would flourish if cannabis were removed from the Schedule of Controlled Substances.

“The Administration must work collaboratively with Congressional leadership to repeal America’s failed marijuana criminalization laws,” Altieri explained.

“President Biden’s pardon announcement serves as a stark contrast to Senate Republicans, who have been in lockstep behind Mitch McConnell in efforts to block any attempt to end the federal criminalization of marijuana, Strekal added.

“We commend this important and necessary step … of repairing the harms of prohibition,” said co-founder and CEO of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) Aaron Smith. “Removing cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act is the only way to achieve those goals.”

The NCIA thinks that legalization would make it so that “Main Street cannabis businesses can supplant underground markets.”

Many people in cannabis communities across state-legal cannabis industries have been waiting for Joe Biden to move on cannabis.

While Chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee during the Reagan Administration in the 1980s, he strongly supported the War on Drugs.

Joe Biden has not indicated he would sign the long-awaited legalization bill introduced in Senate. The SAFE Banking Act would help the cannabis industry and the MORE Act to address social justice issues. All three bills have failed to pass the Senate.

To make matters more complicated, Joe Biden has said he supports decriminalization versus full legalization.

Midterm Politics

Democrats were in danger of losing their slight control of the U.S. Senate before the Republican-controlled Supreme Court overturned the landmark abortion decision Roe v Wade in June.

While the Democrats could pick up more U.S. Senate Seats, they are in danger of losing control of the House of Representatives.

Cannabis legalization has bipartisan support in general. Both Progressives on the Left and Libertarians on the Right have long been in favor of ending cannabis prohibition. More politically moderate people believe there are great economic opportunities.

Unfortunately, the House Republican Caucus has come out completely opposed to cannabis reform.

Biden filled his campaign pledge likely as a way to increase voter turnout for Democrats on November 8th.

Certificate of Pardon for the Offense of Simple Possession of Marijuana on or before October 6, 2022

On October 6, 2022, President Biden issued a presidential proclamation that pardons federal convictions for simple marijuana possession offenses.

How a pardon can help you

A pardon is an expression of the President’s forgiveness. It does not signify innocence or expunge the conviction. But it may remove civil disabilities — such as restrictions on the right to vote, to hold office, or to sit on a jury — that are imposed because of the pardoned conviction. It may also be helpful in obtaining licenses, bonding, or employment. Learn more about the pardon

How to qualify for the weed crimes pardon

You qualify for the weed crimes pardon if:

  • On or before October 6, 2022, you were charged with or convicted of simple possession of marijuana by either a federal or D.C. Superior court
  • You were a U.S. citizen or lawfully present in the United States at the time of the offense
  • You were a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident on October 6, 2022

Request a certificate to show proof of the pardon

A Certificate of Pardon is proof that you were pardoned under the proclamation. The certificate is the only documentation you will receive of the pardon.

What you’ll need for the request

About you

You must provide personal details like name, mailing address, email address, and citizenship status.

About the charge or conviction

You must state whether it was a charge or conviction, the court district where it happened, and the date (month, day, year). If possible, you should also:

  • provide information about your case (docket or case number and the code section that was charged)
  • provide copies of documentation, such as:
    • charging documents (indictment, complaint, or criminal information); or
    • conviction documents (judgment of conviction or the court docket sheet showing the sentence and date it was imposed)

Without this information, we can’t guarantee that we’ll be able to determine if you qualify for the pardon under the proclamation.

How to submit a request

The fastest way to submit a request is online through this website. If you send us the request form (PDF) by email or mail, it may take longer to process it.

You can submit a request for yourself or someone else can submit it on your behalf.

By email

Download the request form (PDF) and email the completed form to USPardon.Attorney@usdoj.gov. If you include charging or conviction documents with the request, attach PDF copies of them to the email.

By mail

Print the request form (PDF) and mail the completed form to:

U.S. Department of Justice
Office of the Pardon Attorney
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20530

If you are including charging or conviction documents with the request, send copies of them with the request form.

Online on this website

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