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Biden expands pardons for marijuana possession and grants clemency to 11

President Biden speaks to reporters in Milwaukee before boarding Air Force One on Wednesday. The president announced Friday he would expand pardons for simple marijuana possession.
Mandel Ngan
/
AFP via Getty Images
President Biden speaks to reporters in Milwaukee before boarding Air Force One on Wednesday. The president announced Friday he would expand pardons for simple marijuana possession.

Updated December 22, 2023 at 1:09 PM ET

President Biden issued a wide-reaching proclamation Friday that further pardons people who have certain convictions related to marijuana under federal and D.C. law.

The pardon builds on actions Biden took last year on pardons related to simple possession of marijuana. A White House official said this new proclamation expands those actions by issuing pardons for things like the offense of use and possession on certain federal lands.

The pardon encompasses U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who committed or were convicted of simple possession, attempted simple possession or use of marijuana — regardless of whether the offender had been charged or prosecuted yet.

The proclamation does not include pardons for offenses such as possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, or driving offenses committed while under the influence of marijuana.

The pardon Biden issued does not apply to state convictions. In a statement, the president encouraged governors to take action on marijuana laws in their own states.

"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," Biden said.

Vice President Kamala Harris also weighed in.

"As I have declared many times before, no one should be in prison simply for smoking weed," she said in a statement. "That is why we continue to call on Governors to join us in this long-overdue work."

Biden also grants clemency to 11 people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses

In addition to the proclamation, Biden also granted clemency to 11 individuals who he says are serving "disproportionately long" sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.

Biden said that with current reforms, these individuals would have been eligible for much shorter sentences had they been charged today.

"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," Biden said in a statement.

In April, Biden commuted the sentences of 31 others who were also convicted of nonviolent drug offenses.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.