photo of cannabis leaves by Jeff W on Unsplash

On December 22, President Biden posted: “A Proclamation on Granting Pardon for the Offense of Simple Possession of Marijuana, Attempted Simple Possession of Marijuana, or Use of Marijuana” on

President Biden posted the following statement:

America was founded on the principle of equal justice under law. Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect this core value that makes our communities safer and stronger. That is why today I am announcing additional steps I am taking to make the promise of equal justice a reality.

First, I am commuting the sentences of 11 people who are serving disproportionately long sentences for non-violent drug offenses. All of them would have been eligible to receive significantly lower sentences if they were charged with the same offense today.

Second, following my pardon of prior federal and D.C. offenses of simple possession of marijuana, I am issuing a Proclamation that will pardon additional offenses of simple possession and use of marijuana under federal law and D.C. law. Criminal records for marijuana use and possession have imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs.

Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the use or possession of marijuana, no now should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either. That’s why I continue to urge Governors to do the same with regard to state offenses and applaud those who have since taken action…

President Biden wrote in his Proclamation:

In Proclamation 10467 of October 6, 2022 (Granting Pardon for the Offense of Simple Possession of Marijuana), I exercised my authority under the Constitution to pardon individuals who committed or were convicted of the offense of simple marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act and section 48-904.01(d)(1) of the Code of the District of Columbia (D.C. Code).

As I have said before, convictions for simple possession of marijuana have imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. Through this proclamation , consistent with the grant of Proclamation 10467, I am pardoning individuals who may continue to experience the unnecessary collateral consequences of a conviction for simple possession of marijuana, or use of marijuana.

Therefore, acting pursuant to the grant of authority in Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution of the United States, I, Joseph R. Biden Jr., do hereby grant a full, complete, and unconditional pardon to all current United States citizens and lawful permanent residents who, on or before the date of this proclamation, committed or were convicted of the offense of simple possession of marijuana, attempted simple possession of marijuana, or use of marijuana, regardless of whether they have been charged with or prosecuted for these offenses on or before the date of this proclamation in violation of:

(1)  section 844 of title 21, United States Code, section 846 of title 21, United States Code, and previous provisions in the United States Code that prohibited simple possession of marijuana or attempted simple possession of marijuana; 

(2)  section 48-904.01(d)(1) of the D.C. Code and previous provisions in the D.C. Code that prohibited simple possession of marijuana;

(3)  section 48-904.09 of the D.C. Code and previous provisions in the D.C. Code that prohibited attempted simple possession of marijuana; and

(4)  provisions in the Code of Federal Regulations, including as enforced under the United States Code, that prohibit only the simple possession or use of marijuana on Federal properties or installations, or in other locales, as currently or previously codified, including but not limited to 25 C.F.R. 11.452(a); 32 C.F.R. 1903.12(b)(2); 36 C.F.R. 2.35(b)(2); 36 C.F.R. 1002.35(b)(2); 36 C.F.R. 1280.16(a)(1); 36 C.F.R. 702.6(b); 41 C.F.R. 102-74.400(a); 43 C.F.R. 8365.1-4(b)(2); 

…My intent by this proclamation is to pardon only the offenses of simple possession of marijuana, attempted simple possession of marijuana, or use of marijuana in violation of Federal and D.C. laws set forth in paragraphs (1) through (3) of this proclamation, as well as the provisions in the Code of Federal Regulations consistent with paragraph (4) of this proclamation, and not any other offenses involving controlled substances or activity beyond simple possession of marijuana, attempted simple possession of marijuana, or use of marijuana, such as possession of marijuana with intent to distribute or driving offenses committed whole under the influence of marijuana. This pardon does not apply to individuals who were non-citizens not lawfully present in the United States at the time of their offense.

Pursuant to the procedures in Proclamation 10467, the Attorney General, acting through the Pardon Authority, shall review all properly submitted applications for certificates of pardon, and shall issue such certificates of pardon to eligible applicants in due course…

The Congressional Black Caucus posted a press release titled “Congressional Black Caucus Applauds President Biden’s Crack-Cocaine Clemencies, Marijuana Pardons”.

“The CBC applauds President Biden and the Department of Justice for today granting clemency under new DOJ sentencing guidelines to 11 individuals who have been unfairly criminalized for non-violent drug offenses. The new DOJ guidelines are a positive step forward in addressing long-standing racial disparities in crack and powder cocaine sentencing, which for generations has disproportionately imprisoned Black Americans. It is our hope that clemency be granted to more Black Americans who have been criminalized by the decades-old policies of the War on Drugs era.

“Additionally, the CBC applauds President Biden’s proclamation to pardon marijuana offenses, including the use on federal lands, which have disproportionately incarcerated and upended the lives of far too many Black Americans by creating barriers to employment, education, and housing.”

CBC (Canada) reported that U.S. President Joe Biden is making thousands of people who were convicted of use and simple possession of marijuana on federal lands and the District of Columbia eligible for pardons, the White House said Friday, in his latest round of executive clemencies meant to rectify racial disparities in the justice system.

The categorical pardon on Friday builds on a similar round issued just before the 2022 midterm elections that made thousands convicted of simple possession on federal lands eligible for pardons. Friday’s action includes additional criminal offenses to those eligible for a pardon, making even more people eligible to have their convictions expunged.

According to CBC, Biden’s order applies only to marijuana, which has been decriminalized or legalized in many states for some or all uses, but remains a controlled substance under federal law. U.S. regulators are studying reclassifying the drug from the category of drugs deemed to have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” known as “Schedule 1,” to the less tightly regulated “Schedule III.”

Biden on Friday reiterated his call on governors and local leaders to take similar steps to erase marijuana convictions.

What does this mean for people who use marijuana in the United States?

Unfortunately, the decision on whether or not it is safe for you to use marijuana might be beyond your control. Some states have governors who allow adults (over age 18) to purchase and use marijuana products from licensed dispensaries.

NORML reported in October of 2023, that numerous states, including California, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Washington have passed legislation limiting the ability of employers to either refuse to hire and/or fire workers based solely upon their off-hours cannabis use.

This does not mean that if you happen to live on one of the above states that you can use marijuana anywhere you go. Some places have laws that prevent people from smoking at public events like concerts, for example. There’s also a chance that the county you live in, which is accepting of marijuana use (for adults), will clash with neighboring counties who have legislators that don’t want to allow anyone to use marijuana.

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