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Biden ‘Commends And Welcomes’ Maryland Governor’s Mass Marijuana Pardon, White House Says



President Joe Biden “commends and welcomes” the news that Maryland’s governor has issued over 175,000 pardons for marijuana and paraphernalia convictions, the White House says.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked whether the president had a response to the Maryland clemency action, and she said “we certainly welcome the news, and it builds on the president’s work to reform how the nation approaches marijuana.”

She also used the moment to tout Biden’s role in directing an administrative review into cannabis scheduling that’s resulted in the Justice Department proposing to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

The president “has been clear that no one—no one—should be in jail just for possessing marijuana,” Jean-Pierre said. “And he has a record number of pardons for prior federal offenses of simple possession and use of marijuana.”

The press secretary noted that Biden has called on governors to “to do their part and to take action” by following his lead to issue state-level cannabis clemency, citing additional pardon moves in Massachusetts and Oregon that were at least partly responsive to his federal proclamation in 2022.

Late last month, Biden also discussed his mass marijuana pardons at a rally in Philadelphia, where he finally acknowledged that his clemency actions did not expunge records after he had repeatedly suggested they did.

For his part, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) said he intends to work with lawmakers to facilitate expungements as a follow-up to has pardons.

While the federal pardons didn’t seal records, the Justice Department has been distributing certificates to eligible people who apply for the largely symbolic document.

Biden might have adjusted his rhetoric to reflect the realities of the clemency action, but he hasn’t indicated that he’s willing to offer relief for offenses beyond simple possession. In fact, he’s specifically said that growing or distributing cannabis is “a different deal.”

To that end, there are still people in federal prison over non-violent marijuana offenses. And advocates have pushed the Biden administration to do more, including keeping his key cannabis campaign pledge to decriminalize marijuana.

Meanwhile, the proposed rule to federally reschedule marijuana was officially posted last month, kicking off a public comment period that’s expected to elicit a major response from supporters and opponents of cannabis reform. A prohibitionist group is asking the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to extend that comment period by another month.

The White House drug czar, Rahul Gupta, has also discussed the rescheduling move multiple times over the past month, framing it as a “historic” reform that could open the door to cannabis-based drug development. However, he’s also inflated the impact of a Schedule III reclassification, at one point suggesting it would address racial disparities in marijuana enforcement.

The Biden-Harris campaign has also drawn a contrast between the marijuana policy actions of their administration and that of former President Donald Trump, pointing out that DOJ under his administration rescinded federal cannabis enforcement guidance that generally laid out a policy of non-interference with legal marijuana states.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.


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