Biden Hears Urgent Calls for Mass Pardons of Cannabis Convictions

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As states continue to decriminalise the plant, lawmakers in Congress call for expungement of federal cannabis convictions to reunite families in time for the holidays

U.S. Members of Congress continue to apply pressure, calling for the President to pardon all nonviolent federal cannabis convictions, the Independent reports.

As the holiday season approaches, Members of Congress request an urgent update from President Biden on whether he plans to pardon nonviolent cannabis offences.

A letter from US Reps Jamaal Bowman, Earl Blumenauer and Barbara Lee follows up a February request from 40 members of the House of Representatives, calling on the President to exercise his “unilateral” executive authority to grant mass pardons for cannabis-related federal convictions.

Dated 7 December, the letter from lawmakers emphasizes that many Americans remain incarcerated due to “racially discriminatory” cannabis policies. Last month, a group of Senators also urged the president to grant such pardons to both currently and formerly imprisoned people.

The lawmakers urge the president to begin rectifying the harm caused by these discriminatorily implemented policies by reuniting convicted victims with their families.

“We again urge you to utilize your power to pardon all individuals convicted of nonviolent cannabis offences and cancel all related federal fines and fees, so that we can reunite families and communities in time for the winter holidays,” the lawmakers wrote.

The letter includes a demand that “federal criminal fines and fees be cancelled for all nonviolent cannabis offences.”

The letter points out the injustice of individuals being incarcerated for cannabis offences, as cannabis becomes decriminalised across a number of US states. As legislation to legalise or decriminalise and regulate cannabis has garnered support from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, Biden has “the power to take decisive action to begin this necessary work”.

Criminal justice reform activists suggest that 40,000 people are currently incarcerated for cannabis-related offences. However, this figure relies on decades-old data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Furthermore, subpar federal data and complex convictions, which include other offences, create an unclear picture of incarceration rates for drug crimes.

The President does not have the agency to intervene with state and local convictions, but proposed legislation drafted by a bipartisan group of congress members, led by Republican Rep Dave Joyce and Democratic Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, would support states in the expungement of criminal records from cannabis-related crimes.

A recent Pew Research Poll has shown a dramatic shift in national public opinion regarding the War on Drugs. As many as 91% of Americans support cannabis legislation, with fewer than 10% believing that it should not be legal at all. Moreover, 60% believe that recreational use should be legal, while 31% believe that it should be allowed solely for medicinal use.

Cannabis remains illegal under current federal drug scheduling, although 36 states allow for medical use and a further 18 states have introduced measures to regulate its non-medical use.

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