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President Biden Expands Pardons for Federal Marijuana Convictions

President Joe Biden has announced a series of pardons aimed at addressing racial disparities within the justice system by making thousands of individuals with federal marijuana convictions eligible for pardons.

Clemency Initiative

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This executive clemency initiative, announced by the White House on Friday, extends the scope of previous actions taken just before the 2022 midterm elections. It not only provides pardons for those convicted of simple marijuana possession on federal lands but also includes additional criminal offenses, offering a pathway to expunge convictions.

11 Individuals With Long Sentences Also Benefiting

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In addition, President Biden is granting clemency to 11 individuals serving lengthy sentences for nonviolent drug offenses, which the White House considers disproportionately long.

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Equal Justice Through Pardons

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President Biden’s recent actions are part of his broader commitment to achieving equal justice within the U.S. criminal justice system.

Convictions Caused Hurdles in Many People’s Lives

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The move is intended to rectify the adverse impact that criminal records related to marijuana use and possession have had on individuals’ employment, housing, and educational opportunities. These convictions have created unnecessary obstacles in the lives of many, according to the President.

Expanding Eligibility, Not Immediate Release

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It’s important to note that last year’s round of pardons did not result in any individuals being released from prison. Instead, its aim was to assist thousands in overcoming challenges such as securing housing or employment. Similarly, Friday’s action will not lead to the release of any federal prisoners.

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Focus on Marijuana Convictions

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President Biden’s order specifically addresses marijuana convictions, which have seen varying levels of decriminalization or legalization across many states. Despite these changes at the state level, marijuana remains classified as a controlled substance under federal law.

Discussions About Reclassifying Marijuana

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There are ongoing discussions among U.S. regulators regarding the potential reclassification of marijuana from the highly restricted “Schedule I” category to the less tightly regulated “Schedule III.”

Exclusion of Unauthorized Individuals

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It’s essential to highlight that this pardon initiative does not apply to individuals who were in the United States unlawfully at the time of their offense.

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Application Process

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Those who meet the eligibility criteria can submit applications to the Justice Department’s pardon attorney office, which will issue certificates of pardon.

Biden’s Call to Governors and Local Leaders

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President Biden has also called upon governors and local leaders to take similar actions within their jurisdictions to address marijuana convictions. He emphasized that individuals should not be incarcerated solely due to marijuana use or possession, whether on the federal, local, or state level.

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