A coalition of business groups and criminal justice reform advocates are holding President Biden accountable in following through with his campaign promise for criminal justice reform. Specifically, the coalition is asking Biden to act upon his call to “zero out” the criminal records of non-violent marijuana offenders, which he spoke about on the campaign trail.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) along with Project Mission Green/The Weldon Project, REFORM Alliance, Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ); Taking Action for Good (TAG), The Last Mile, CAN-DO Foundation, Libertas Institute, Buried Alive Project, Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA), United States Cannabis Coalition (USCC), and the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) is urging President Biden to demonstrate his “commitment to criminal justice reform by immediately issuing a general pardon to all former federal, non-violent cannabis offenders in the U.S” in a letter to the White House.
“President Biden was crystal clear on the campaign trail that his administration would prioritize criminal justice reform, and he explicitly highlighted his desire to expunge the records of those suffering from the stigma of a federal marijuana conviction,” Erik Altieri, executive director at NORML, said. “Following through on this campaign promise would be an important first step in remedying the past wrongs associated with nearly a century of marijuana prohibition and healing the wounds of the many Americans who have needlessly suffered under this failed public policy.”
During a Democratic Primary Debate in 2019, President Biden said, “I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period. And I think everyone—anyone who has a record—should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out.” The coalition suggested that because President Biden is now in a position to take action his pardons could be done through categorical clemency, according to a press release.
A general pardon of all former and current federal non-violent cannabis offenders would be the kind of grand, ambitious, and impactful action that would effectively signal to marginalized communities that their suffering is seen and that the government seeks to remedy their harms.”
Categorical clemency gives executive authority to the president and governors to change the terms of individuals’ criminal justice system involvement, according to Urban Institute, which allows for the accomplishment of larger reform goals.
“Even before Congress sends President Biden a marijuana reform bill to sign, he has the unique ability to lead on criminal justice reform and provide immediate relief to thousands of Americans,” Reps. Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) and Barbara Lee (CA-13), co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said. “We urge President Biden to grant executive clemency for all non-violent cannabis offenders and look forward to working with him and the incoming Attorney General on quickly making this a reality.”
NORML and the rest of the coalition said that the “pardon of all former and current federal non-violent cannabis offenders would be the kind of grand, ambitious, and impactful action hat would effectively signal to marginalized communities that their suffering is seen and that the government seeks to remedy their harms.”