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President Biden to pardon simple marijuana possession incarcerations; Calif. still has work to do

By ONME Newswire

At the beginning of October, President Joe Biden gave a pardon of all prior federal offenses for those incarcerate for simple possession of marijuana. He is currently directing the Attorney General Merrick Brian Garland to develop an administrative process for the issuance of certificates of pardon to eligible individuals.

“Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates,” said President Biden. “I am announcing three steps that I am taking to end this failed approach.”

Ironically, the Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act as the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and it’s even higher than the classification for fentanyl and methamphetamine, although those two drugs are leading the current overdose epidemic nationwide.

“There are thousands of people who have prior Federal convictions for marijuana possession, who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result. My action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions.”

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU) of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% were for simply having marijuana. Nationwide, the arrest data revealed one consistent trend: significant racial bias. Despite roughly equal usage rates, Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana.

Second, the President is urging all governors to do the same with regard to state offenses of simple possession of marijuana.

“Just as no one should be in federal prison solely due to the possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or a state prison for that reason either,” said President Biden.

California became the first state to allow medicinal cannabis use when voters passed the Compassionate Use Act in 1996. Today, cannabis is legal in California for both medicinal and adult (recreational) use.

Before Ab-1793 was passed into law, Proposition 64 (Health & Safety Code § 11361.8) allowed individuals with marijuana convictions to petition the court for the reduction or dismissal of their marijuana convictions. However, until an LA Times news probe found that tens of thousands of Californians still had felonies, misdemeanors and other cannabis related charges on their records that still had not been expunged, even after submitting the paperwork to start the process.

Moreover, according to the research from UC Davis Center for Regional Change, Blacks are still nearly four times more likely to be arrested and charged with marijuana crime than whites; between 1996 and 2016, the report shows that police arrested Black people four times more than white people for marijuana in California. The highest arrest rates occur in marijuana-producing counties such as Mendocino, where the Black arrest rate in 2016 was almost 4,500 per 100,000 population. For the given year, the Black arrest rate is nearly ten times higher than the white arrest rate of 480 per 100,000 white population.

How to apply for a certificate of pardon

The proclamation applies only to federal convictions, including D.C. Code offenses, and does not apply to convictions under state or local law.

Under President Biden’s proclamation, individuals with qualifying convictions are fully and completely pardoned for their marijuana possession offense. The pardon applies only to the qualifying offense of simple possession of marijuana and not to any other offense(s) for which the individual has been charged or convicted.

The office cannot accept applications or issue certificates of pardon until our official procedures have been announced. People can check for additional guidance in the near future.   


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