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Biden to Pardon All Federal Offenses of Simple Possession of Marijuana

Oct 7, 2022

On October 6, President Joe Biden announced his intention to pardon every person that has previously been convicted on federal marijuana “simple possession” charges.  Currently under federal laws, specifically under the Controlled Substances Act, it is illegal to use, possess, grow or sell marijuana.  There is no exception at the federal level for medical or recreational use, even though many states have legalized one or both of these forms of use.  Possession of even a small amount of marijuana is a federal criminal offense.  Simple possession, with no intent to distribute, is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.   

While there are currently no people serving time in federal prisons solely for simple possession of marijuana, the President’s goal for issuing the pardons is to minimize, if not eliminate, the barrier to employment and housing eligibility that those previously convicted of simple possession face.

President Biden specifically pointed out the disproportionate effect that these prosecutions have had in minority communities.  In his statement he said, "sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit. Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And while white and black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates."

President Biden said he’s directed Attorney General Merrick Garland to develop a process to issue pardon certificates to eligible Americans.

Advocates of legalization of marijuana at the federal level view this as a small but positive step in that direction.

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Gaye C. Eschenbach

Gaye Eschenbach is a Senior Manager in the Private Client Services Group assisting many industries including manufacturing, wholesale distribution and real estate with tax planning and review, financial statement compilation and review services.

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