Representatives Ask Biden to Pardon Cannabis Convictions

On Thursday, U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), leaders of the Cannabis Caucus, wrote a letter signed by 35 additional lawmakers asking President Joe Biden to pardon all federal non-violent cannabis offences.  

“Today, it is clearer than ever that the American people are demanding an end to outdated cannabis laws,” the letter said. “But until the day that Congress sends you a marijuana reform bill to sign, you have a unique ability to lead on criminal justice reform and provide immediate relief to thousands of Americans.” 

The representatives said that Biden during his campaign committed to expunge any past marijuana use and possession convictions and that this step would help fulfil that campaign promise. The letter explained that other Democratic and Republican presidents have pardoned cannabis offenses. 

Blumenauer and Lee said in a press release that cannabis policies in America “have perpetuated systemic racism,” citing that Black Americans are more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession but not because a higher percentage of Black Americans use marijuana. 

The press release quoted NORML Political Director Justin Strekal who said “President Biden’s leadership on issuing pardons to nonviolent federal marijuana offenders would demonstrate a down payment on his campaign promise to prioritize criminal justice reform and similarly inspire similar justice-oriented actions in a non-partisan fashion around the country.” 

Thursday’s letter also noted state-level movements to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational uses and the passing of the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act, or the MORE Act in the House of Representatives. The MORE Act decriminalizes marijuana, adds a 5 percent tax on cannabis products, and would allow expungement for many cannabis-related convictions.