This Presidents Day, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), along with a coalition of business groups and criminal justice reform advocates, is calling upon President Joe Biden to follow through on his campaign commitment to expunge the criminal records of those with non-violent marijuana convictions.
In a letter to the White House, NORML alongside Project Mission Green/The Weldon Project, REFORM Alliance, Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ); Taking Action for Good (TAG), The Last Mile, CAN-DO Foundation, Libertas Institute, Buried Alive Project, Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA), United States Cannabis Coalition (USCC), and the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), the groups highlighted President Biden’s commitments on the campaign trail on the need for action.
“President Biden was crystal clear on the campaign trail that his administration would prioritize criminal justice reform, and he explicitly highlighted his desire to expunge the records of those suffering from the stigma of a federal marijuana conviction,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. “Following through on this campaign promise would be an important first step in remedying the past wrongs associated with nearly a century of marijuana prohibition and healing the wounds of the many Americans who have needlessly suffered under this failed public policy. In 2021, it is readily apparent that the criminalization of cannabis, and the lifelong lost opportunities that come with a criminal marijuana conviction, causes far greater harm than the responsible use of cannabis itself.”
Excerpts from the letter:
President Biden, we urge you to clearly demonstrate your commitment to criminal justice reform by immediately issuing a general pardon to all former federal, non-violent cannabis offenders in the US.
In November 2019, during a Democratic Primary Debate, you stated: “I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period. And I think everyone – anyone who has a record – should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out.” You now are in a position to do just that through a categorical pardon grant. Such grants are hardly unprecedented. Presidents from both political parties have taken such action when circumstances warranted it. In 1974, President Ford signed a proclamation granting conditional pardons to Selective Service Act violators who did not leave the United States. In 1977, President Carter issued categorical pardons to all Selective Service Act violators as a way to put the war and divisions it caused in the past.
When a large majority of Americans no longer believe cannabis should be illegal, aggressive enforcement tactics quickly lose support. A general pardon of all former and current federal non-violent cannabis offenders would be the kind of grand, ambitious, and impactful action that would effectively signal to marginalized communities that their suffering is seen and that the government seeks to remedy their harms.
NORML simultaneously released a petition calling upon Americans of all political stripes to join in the call for Presidential pardons.