After more than a year in office, President Joe Biden on Tuesday granted clemency to dozens of people with non-violent federal drug convictions on their records.
The president commuted the sentences of 75 individuals who were previously released to home confinement amid the coronavirus pandemic. This marks the first clemency action from Biden—a move that advocates and lawmakers have long awaited and that the administration has repeatedly been pressed on.
While it’s not the mass pardon for people criminalized over cannabis that activists have been pushing for—with White House descriptions of only nine of the people newly receiving clemency mentioning marijuana—it’s a step toward fulfilling a campaign pledge that Biden repeatedly made while running for president.
“America is a nation of laws and second chances, redemption, and rehabilitation,” Biden said in a statement. “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 these core values that enable safer and stronger communities.”
The president said that many of the people he is granting relief to “would have received a lower sentence if they were charged with the same offense today, thanks to the bipartisan First Step Act” signed into law by his predecessor, President Donald Trump.
In addition to the 75 sentence commutations, Biden also issued three pardons.
Late last year, there were signals that the administration might be moving toward clemency for certain people with federal convictions. The federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) started asking eligible individuals to get the process started by filing out clemency applications.
Now that preliminary step appears to be getting executive results.
The president continues to oppose adult-use marijuana legalization, despite increasing bipartisan support for the policy change, but it seems the White House is finally willing to take unilateral action to provide some level of relief for those caught up in the war on drugs that Biden as a senator helped perpetuate.
The commutations are generally being granted to people with low-level drug offenses with up to four years left in their sentence and who were eligible for home confinement under the Trump-era Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
About 8,300 federal inmates were allowed to temporarily transition to home confinement amid the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
Biden has received about a dozen letters from lawmakers, advocates, celebrities and people impacted by criminalization to do something about the people who remain behind federal bars over cannabis. After months of inaction, some members of Congress like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have even sent follow-up letters demanding a response.
Among those pushing for reform is Weldon Angelos, a person who received a president pardon from Trump in 2020 and has since become a key advocate for criminal justice reform who has worked with both the Trump and Biden administration of furthering relief.
To Read The Rest Of This Article By Kyle Jaeger on Marijuana Moment
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News