The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) called for President Joe Biden to keep his campaign promise to expunge federal marijuana records.
Doing so would bring immediate justice and relief to thousands of Americans.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Joe Biden stated that “no one should be in jail because of cannabis use.”
In addition, he said he would “decriminalize cannabis use and automatically expunge prior convictions.”
No action has been taken to further those goals as we enter the second year of his presidency.
NORML is demanding that President Biden use his executive authority to issue a blanket pardon for all suffering from the collateral consequences of having a non-violent, federal marijuana conviction on their records.
“This is primarily an issue of justice,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. “Branding thousands of our citizens as lifelong criminals because of a marijuana-related offense results in a litany of lost opportunities. Including the potential loss of employment, housing, voting rights, professional licensing, and student aid, and serves no legitimate societal purpose.”
“The imposition of such lifelong penalties is even more troublesome. In instances where the criminal conviction is related to behavior or activities that many states have since legalized and regulated,” he added.
Ending the Worst of the War on Drugs
“It is time for the president to keep his promises on this broadly supported issue,” Altieri said. “He can use the authority of his office to provide long-overdue relief to those suffering. Under the burden and stigma of a marijuana conviction and help move the nation just a little bit closer to the ideals of justice that we claim to uphold. Assuming he actually cares about the principles he espoused when seeking votes in 2020.”
According to polling, a broad majority of Americans support expunging marijuana records. Seventy percent of respondents favor expunging the criminal records of those with marijuana-related convictions. This support included majorities of Democrats (81 percent), independents (69 percent), and Republicans (57 percent).
Few issues are so popular.
Cannabis legalization is far more popular than Biden himself.
Petition Campaign Support
NORML has launched a petition campaign to show public support for this effort, which 23,779 people have already signed. Their goal is to collect 25,600 signatures.
The petition says that “Branding thousands of our citizens as lifelong criminals because of a marijuana-related offense results in a litany of lost opportunities – including the potential loss of employment, housing, voting rights, professional licensing, and student aid – and serves no legitimate societal purpose. The imposition of such lifelong penalties is even more troublesome in instances where the criminal conviction is related to behavior or activities that are now legal under state law.”
It continues by saying, “Taking this action would be a pivotal first step toward offsetting the human toll taken by the decades-long enforcement of the war on drugs, a war that has disproportionately impacted poor people and people of color, and a war that you championed earlier in your political career. By pardoning eligible federal marijuana prisoners and expunging their past marijuana convictions, you will provide tangible, instant relief to an estimated 10,000 individuals, primarily Black and Brown Americans and those from other marginalized communities.”
Joe Biden and Marijuana Records
Unsurprisingly, Joe Biden has yet to move on expunging marijuana records. Having been elected to the United States Senate in the 1970s, he strongly supported the War on Drugs throughout his career in the Senate, where he served until becoming former President Barack Obama’s Vice President.
It was only after massive pressure and all the other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates were in favor of sweeping cannabis reform Biden made a few concessions in favor of cannabis reform.
Broad change has not happened. But he did appoint a number of noted individuals who are in favor of cannabis legalization.
Biden has also been busy coping with the pandemic and trying to pass large bills. He has also been seeking to keep President Vladimir Putin of Russia from invading Ukraine.
Former President Donald Trump was very conservative on several issues and initially appointed an anti-cannabis Attorney General. But he did support some criminal justice reforms. For example, he signed the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp and CBD. Near the end of his term, he gave a full pardon to noted cannabis prisoner John Knock.