In a major move that has delighted cannabis reform advocacy organizations and is expected to dramatically reduce the number of incarcerated people in the United States, President Joe Biden has pardoned low-level marijuana offenses in Washington, D.C. for those convicted between Jan. 20, 2009 and Jan. 20, 2021.
This new wave of pardons is Biden’s first step towards expanding his clemency initiatives, which saw him grant clemency to numerous individuals serving drug related sentences during his first year in office. This latest commutation has far-reaching implications for cannabis reform initiatives, considering Washington, D.C. has been at the forefront of pro-marijuana initiatives since 2009.
“The President’s action today is an acknowledgment of the widespread support for commonsense reform and a welcome step in the right direction,” said Dan Riffle, Director of Federal Policies at the Marijuana Policy Project. “These clean slates will help countless individuals who have been trapped in the criminal justice system due to the government’s unwise and unnecessary war on marijuana.”
President Biden has been vocal in his support for marijuana reform, and his actions reflect this. His bipartisan federal cannabis reform bill would decriminalize marijuana use nationwide and remove it from the Controlled Substances Act. He has also announced his openness to marijuana legalization, and recently discussed pardoning those imprisoned on drug offenses, stating: “I’m not making any commitment, but it is currently under review.”
The move is expected to assist thousands of individuals in Washington, D.C. who have been unjustly punished for marijuana possession over the last 12 years, freeing them from a lifetime of stigma and potential financial hardship associated with a criminal record.
The Biden Administration’s recent moves are a huge boost for marijuana reform, and could help pave the way for further cannabis justice initiatives. We can expect his clemency initiatives to be even more far-reaching in the coming months, potentially impacting thousands of individuals affected by the country’s punitive drug policies.