ACLU Responds to Executive Order Pardoning People with Federal Convictions for Simple Marijuana Possession

October 6, 2022 5:45 pm

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced today that he will pardon people with federal convictions of simple marijuana possession. Thousands of people will have their convictions pardoned as a result.

President Biden also called on governors to follow suit and pardon people convicted of simple marijuana possession under their state laws.

The President also asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to initiate the process to review the classification of marijuana as a dangerous substance.

Cynthia W. Roseberry, Acting Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Justice Division, issued the following response:

“The War on Drugs has cast a long shadow of harm for decades, but today, that shadow got a little smaller. Countless people have spent innumerable hours advocating for this day. This is a victory for our nation. This is a victory for fairness, justice and redemption.

“The ACLU has contributed to this fight through our Redemption Campaign. Clemency is a powerful tool that begins to address the harms of mass incarceration and systemic racism in our criminal legal system. The ACLU will continue to fight for the redemption of thousands more. People are not disposable.

“Because of this executive action, thousands of people haunted by a criminal conviction now have the possibility of fewer barriers to housing, employment, education and stability. It means thousands of people will get their second chance, and not forever be punished for behavior that is now legal or decriminalized in more than half of states and the District of Columbia.

“This is the power of executive clemency. With one stroke of the pen, the President was able to do justice for thousands of people and their families, and begin to right the wrongs of past failed policies.

“Governors should heed President Biden’s call and follow his example by using their executive power to pardon people with convictions for marijuana possession. In addition, Secretary Becerra and Attorney General Garland should immediately work to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act as a dangerous substance. This correction is long overdue.

“But this should be just the beginning. We urge President Biden and governors not to stop with pardons for convictions of simple marijuana possession, but to use their clemency powers in new and transformational ways to remedy the harm caused by decades of draconian criminal laws; harm that is felt disproportionately by Black and Brown Communities.”

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