President Biden Releases Marijuana Pardon

By Tara Davis, Directorate of Prevention, Resilience and ReadinessFebruary 27, 2024

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On Dec. 22, President Biden released a proclamation pardoning all U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who, on or before this date, committed or were convicted of the offense of simple possession, attempted simple possession or use of marijuana. The proclamation does not cover military drug offenses under 10 U.S.C 112a and therefore does not result in a pardon for military personnel, nor does it apply to the civilian drug-testing program (48 CFR 252.223- 7004).

This pardon follows Biden’s Oct. 6, 2022, statement on marijuana reform, where he introduced a three-step approach for reforming regulations involving marijuana use and possession. With the issuance of this pardon, the first step is set in motion. The attorney general issues certificates of pardon to eligible individuals, and then Biden urges governors to grant pardons for state-level offenses.

During the final step, the secretary of Health and Human Services and the attorney general review the Schedule I classification under the Controlled Substances Act, which labels marijuana as dangerous as heroin and LSD but with a lower potential for abuse than fentanyl and methamphetamine. However, Biden emphasizes that as marijuana regulations change, federal and state restrictions on trafficking, marketing and underage sales should stay in place.

Biden’s goal with this pardon and further evaluation of current marijuana regulations is to help those who may be denied employment, housing or educational opportunities and suffer other collateral consequences that arise from these convictions.