Biden’s Marijuana Pardons: Not All It Could Be

For people under the age of 30, it is surprising to learn that marijuana was once a crime so serious, that simple possession could lead to serious prison time.
Massachusetts decriminalized marijuana in 2008 and made it legal for recreational use in 2016.
Last December, President Joe Biden announced an executive clemency whereby people charged or convicted of nonviolent marijuana charges can apply for a pardon through an online application with The Office of the Pardon Attorney. The pardons are only for eligible applicants charged on federal land or in Washington, D.C.
The benefits of obtaining a pardon will remove barriers people charged with marijuana offenses face in access to housing, employment, and education.
However, a pardon does not remove these charges from someone’s record.
As stated, “any background check for a travel visa, or for a job teaching, or even to hold a government appointment or run for office, will all show that federal marijuana possession record – every time,” says Chris Goldstein, regional organizer for the non-profit group NORML that has advocated for the rights of responsible marijuana users since 1970.
Recipients of a pardon will receive a certificate they must present to the authority in charge of their circumstance. Thusly, and by force, opening the authority’s mind to the possibility of changing the recipient’s criminal disposition in society.
“We demand that the president actually deschedule and decriminalize cannabis,” stated Kassandra Frederique, executive director of The Drug Policy Alliance, a U.S. organization that advocates for regulation of drugs to be grounded in evidence, health, equity, and human rights, in an interview with NPR.
President Biden has recommended the Drug Enforcement Agency reclassify marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance. Schedule I drugs, like heroin and LSD, are considered to have a high potential for abuse and no legitimate medical use under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Crimes related to the possession, sale, and trafficking of these drugs can range from fines to lengthy prison sentences.
The Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Drug Administration have told the DEA to reschedule marijuana as Schedule III, which would potentially legalize medical marijuana under federal law. 12 Senate Democrats, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, have also requested the DEA remove marijuana from The Controlled Substance Act altogether.
In Massachusetts, Gov. Maura Healey campaigned on the promise of pardons for people with marijuana convictions. Still, there has yet to be any substantive progress made to keep that promise.
“The plan is under development at this time,” said the governor’s office spokesperson, Karissa Hand.
The DEA has told congressional lawmakers they are ‘now conducting their review’ of marijuana’s status under federal law.
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