President Joe Biden on Thursday unilaterally pardoned all prior federal convictions for simple possession of marijuana in a move that critics suspect was a last-minute gambit to buy votes for Democrats going into the midterm elections.
“I am announcing a pardon of all prior Federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana. I have directed the Attorney General to develop an administrative process for the issuance of certificates of pardon to eligible individuals,” the president said in a statement.
“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.”
.@POTUS “As I often said during my campaign for President, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana…Today, I am announcing three steps that I am taking to end this failed approach.”https://t.co/0BYghDEWsl
— Karine Jean-Pierre (@PressSec) October 6, 2022
There’s just one problem: “Officials said there are currently no Americans serving prison time solely on federal simple marijuana possession charges,” according to CNN.
And so nobody will be getting out of prison thanks to the president’s order.
Moreover, those who were convicted of a simple marijuana possession charge in the past will still retain the charge on their permanent record.
“While a presidential pardon will restore various rights lost as a result of the pardoned offense and should lessen to some extent the stigma arising from a conviction, it will not erase or expunge the record of your conviction,” according to the Department of Justice.
“Therefore, even if you are granted a pardon, you must still disclose your conviction on any form where such information is required, although you may also disclose the fact that you received a pardon,” the department notes.
Effect of a pardon
While a presidential pardon will restore various rights lost as a result of the pardoned offense and should lessen to some extent the stigma arising from a conviction, it will not erase or expunge the record of your conviction. https://t.co/NCluQSnyhN https://t.co/DihOMkaWhZ
— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) October 6, 2022
The point is that the president’s order will engender few immediate tangible repercussions, which raises the question of its purpose.
Critics, for their part, believe the president is trying to buy the votes of mainly young voters who recreationally smoke marijuana.
Buying votes I see
— Kicknitnaz2 (@kicknitnaz2) October 7, 2022
Buying off another block of democratic voters? How unusual that democrats would take this action right before an election. Color me shocked!
— BeautifulSoul💜 (@BeautyIsMine77) October 6, 2022
You couldn’t be any more transparent than buying more young voters by not only forgiveness of incurred debt But also make thc legal, Come on
— Scott Lindsley (@LindsleyThomas) October 7, 2022
Sure. Just in time for the midterms… let’s buy some votes.
You can’t do anything about oil, inflation, food costs, the border, Hunter,
You are indirectly buying votes.
— Thug Capo (@capo_thug) October 7, 2022
People who support this have forgotten that these people are not sittin in jail because they didn’t break the law. With elections in less than a month away, this is simply buying votes. They know they’re losing black and hispanic voters, so let’s go after the pot smokers.
— Lee Wood (@beingleewood) October 7, 2022
That said, the president’s announcement did contain two additional orders.
In the second order, the president urged state governors to follow his lead and pardon state-level convictions for simple possession of marijuana.
“Second, I am urging all Governors to do the same with regard to state offenses. Just as no one should be in a Federal prison solely due to the possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either,” the president said.
And in the third order, the president asked top administration officials to review marijuana’s current classification as a Schedule I drug.
“I am asking the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to initiate the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law,” he said.
“Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances. This is the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine – the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic.”
Based on these actions, many suspect the president’s moves are merely the first step toward him potentially decriminalizing or outright legalizing marijuana.
And indeed, in a tweet, the president said, “Today, we begin to right these wrongs.” This certainly suggests more orders may be on their way.
Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives – for conduct that is legal in many states. That’s before you address the clear racial disparities around prosecution and conviction. Today, we begin to right these wrongs.
— President Biden (@POTUS) October 6, 2022
But not everybody agrees with this plan of action.
“In the midst of a crime wave and on the brink of a recession, Joe Biden is giving blanket pardons to drug offenders—many of whom pled down from more serious charges. This is a desperate attempt to distract from failed leadership,” Republican Sen. Tom Cotton argued in a tweet.
He did have a point. Sometimes criminals do plead down to simple possession. However, nobody who’d done so is currently in prison, so the point is admittedly kind of moot.
In the midst of a crime wave and on the brink of a recession, Joe Biden is giving blanket pardons to drug offenders—many of whom pled down from more serious charges.
This is a desperate attempt to distract from failed leadership.
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) October 6, 2022
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