'Seeking Votes': Biden Criticized for Mass Marijuana Pardons Before Election

White House Acts on Marijuana Convictions, Aiming for Fairness

by Zain ul Abedin
'Seeking Votes': Biden Criticized for Mass Marijuana Pardons Before Election
© Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

In a significant policy shift, the White House announced on Friday, December 22, 2023, President Joe Biden's latest move to issue a sweeping pardon for numerous individuals convicted on federal lands and in the District of Columbia for marijuana use and simple possession.

This landmark decision, reported by The Associated Press, underscores the administration's commitment to addressing racial disparities in the justice system.

Following a similar initiative before the 2022 midterm elections, which provided relief to thousands for the same offenses, this expanded action signals a continuous effort to reform drug laws.

President Biden also granted clemency to 11 individuals serving disproportionally long sentences for nonviolent drug crimes, reinforcing the administration's focus on rectifying racial imbalances in criminal justice.

Biden: Amend Marijuana Laws

The President's statement resonated with a call for equality and justice.

"Criminal records for marijuana use and possession have created unnecessary barriers in employment, housing, and education," Biden remarked, emphasizing the need to amend the outdated approach to marijuana laws. "It's time we rectify these injustices."

While last year's pardons didn't lead to prisoner releases, they were instrumental in easing housing and employment challenges for many.

The latest round, expanding the criteria for pardon eligibility, doesn't immediately free federal prisoners but marks a significant broadening of the scope for compassion.

Notably, the recent pardons encompass a range of criminal statutes, including attempted simple possession, a departure from the previous round's limited scope.

This move exclusively benefits those with marijuana-related convictions, highlighting the ongoing national debate over marijuana's legal status. Despite legalization in various states, marijuana remains a controlled substance under federal law, with ongoing discussions about reclassification.

This pardon, however, does not extend to individuals unlawfully present in the U.S.

at the time of their offense. Beneficiaries of this pardon are required to apply through the Justice Department's pardon attorney office for certificates to aid in housing and employment opportunities. President Biden also urged state and local leaders to expunge marijuana convictions, aligning with his view that no one should face incarceration solely for marijuana use or possession.

Public's Mixed Reactions Emerge

Online reactions to Biden's clemency action were diverse. Comments ranged from accusations of political maneuvering in an election year to calls for full legalization akin to alcohol. Some praised the decision as a step towards justice for marijuana users, with others expressing relief and commendation for the President's initiative.

This decision, pivotal in the ongoing discourse on drug policy reform, marks a notable shift in the federal approach to marijuana offenses, possibly heralding broader changes in the justice system.