Biden commutes sentences of 11 prisoners convicted of drug crimes and will issue pardons for marijuana offenses

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Written By Maya Cantina

President Joe Biden will commute the sentences of 11 inmates serving time for drug offenses and announce sweeping pardons for certain marijuana offenses.

The White House released the clemencies on Friday morning, without revealing the identities of the individuals.

Biden has pledged to release thousands of Americans who have been convicted of marijuana possession since he entered office. 

His Friday actions follow on a 2022 order that pardoned thousands of people for simple possession of marijuana under federal law. 

President Joe Biden will commute the sentences of 11 inmates serving time for drug offenses and announce sweeping pardons for certain marijuana offenses

‘America was founded on the principle of equal justice under law. 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 this core value that makes our communities safer and stronger,’ Biden said. 

‘That is why today I am announcing additional steps I am taking to make the promise of equal justice a reality. 

His new order extends the pardon for simple possession on certain federal lands and in the District of Columbia.

He said it was to target people ‘who may continue to experience the unnecessary collateral consequences of a conviction for simple possession of marijuana, attempted simple possession of marijuana, or use of marijuana.’

His order states that it does not apply to ‘other controlled substances,’ nor does it apply to possession with an intend to distribute, or driving under the influence. It applies to citizens and legal residents, but not to people who came here illegally. Immigration authorities sometimes use drug offenses to remove people who aren’t legal migrants.

‘First, I am commuting the sentences of 11 people who are serving disproportionately long sentences for non-violent drug offenses,’ Biden said in his statement, released as much of official Washington was already leaving town for the holidays.

‘All of them would have been eligible to receive significantly lower sentences if they were charged with the same offense today. 

‘Second, following my pardon of prior federal and D.C. offenses of simple possession of marijuana, I am issuing a Proclamation that will pardon additional offenses of simple possession and use of marijuana under federal and D.C. law. 

‘Criminal records for marijuana use and possession have imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. 

‘Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs. 

‘Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the use or possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either. 

‘That’s why I continue to urge Governors to do the same with regard to state offenses and applaud those who have since taken action. 

‘I have exercised my clemency power more than any recent predecessor has at this point in their presidency. 

‘And while today’s announcement marks important progress, my Administration will continue to review clemency petitions and deliver reforms that advance equal justice, address racial disparities, strengthen public safety, and enhance the wellbeing of all Americans. 

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