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Colorado Governor Pardons More Than 1,300 People For Past Marijuana Convictions

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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) announced on Thursday that he granted 1,351 pardons for convictions of possession of two ounces or less of marijuana.

The move focuses on people who are eligible for relief under a new law that increased the legal cannabis possession limit for adults in the state, which Polis signed in May. At the time, he directed state law enforcement to identify people with prior convictions for amounts under the new, two-ounce limit.

“Adults can legally possess marijuana in Colorado, just as they can beer or wine,” the governor said in a press release. “It’s unfair that 1,351 additional Coloradans had permanent blemishes on their record that interfered with employment, credit, and gun ownership, but today we have fixed that by pardoning their possession of small amounts of marijuana that occurred during the failed prohibition era.”

Polis previewed the coming cannabis plan on Wednesday, saying it was in “the final stages of being completed” and it would be announced “in the next few days.”

A pardon application form for people convicted of marijuana possession over one ounce (the previous limit) but no more than two ounces (the new limit) was recently made available on the Colorado Bureau of Investigation website, as Westword first reported.

Polis signed an executive order last year that granted clemency to almost 3,000 people convicted of possessing one ounce or less of marijuana. And while earlier legislation that enabled him to do that in an expedited way applied to possession cases involving up to two ounces, his office declined to pardon those with more than one ounce on their records because that amount violated the existing state law.

There was nothing written into the new law that calls for a proactive review of cases that may qualify for clemency given the possession threshold increase, but Polis said on Wednesday that that will be an area of focus for his clemency announcement.

Meanwhile, a separate Colorado law that impacts the state’s medical cannabis program is set to take effect on January 1.

Patients will soon be limited to purchasing up to eight grams of concentrate per day. The previous limit was 40 grams of concentrate daily. They will be able to buy more than the daily limit if a doctor certifies that it’s medically necessary and they have a designated primary dispensary to obtain the medicine.

Dispensaries will also be required to provide educational materials to patients, including a pamphlet that will be distributed at the point of sale to provide guidance and warnings about the use of marijuana concentrates. Additionally, medical cannabis businesses couldn’t advertise directly to people aged 18 to 20, and any advertising for concentrates will have to include a warning about the risks of overconsumption.

When it comes to cannabis clemency, Polis isn’t the only governor using executive authority to provide relief.

The governor of Wisconsin announced on Tuesday that he granted 30 pardons, primarily to people convicted of non-violent marijuana or other drug offenses. That raises the total number of pardons issued so far by Gov. Tony Evers (D) to 337 during his first three years in office, the most granted by a governor in the state’s history at this point into a first term.

In May, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) pardoned a doctor who was arrested, prosecuted and jailed for growing marijuana that he used to provide relief for his dying wife. That came months after he granted expedited pardons for low-level cannabis offenses for 69 people.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) said recently that one of his key goals in his final year in office is to ensure that as many eligible people as possible submit applications to have the courts remove their cannabis records and restore opportunities to things like housing, student financial aid and employment.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced more than 500,000 expungements and pardons for people with low-level marijuana offenses on their records. The massive clemency and records clearing sweep came about one year after the state’s legal cannabis market launched.

In June, more than 15,000 people who were convicted for low-level marijuana possession in Nevada were automatically pardoned under a resolution from Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) and the Board of Pardons Commissioners.

Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has also issued pardons for cannabis offenses.

At the federal level, President Joe Biden has been facing pressure from numerous advocates and lawmakers to use his executive power to grant relief to those with marijuana convictions on their records.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last week that the president has “every intention of using his clemency power,” but she declined to give specifics about when any presidential action might actually happen.

“Biden needs to lean on his executive authority now. He has been delaying and underutilizing it so far,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said last week, adding that he could use his authority to advance a number of progressive causes like marijuana reform.

The congresswoman was among the first to suggest that Biden use executive authority to advance marijuana reform, joining 36 of her colleagues on a letter to the president in February that implored him to grant mass pardons to people with federal cannabis convictions. Biden recently received a follow-up letter demanding a status update.

A pair of Republican lawmakers last week sent Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris a separate letter criticizing their “lack of action” and “continued silence” on marijuana reform and urging the administration to reschedule cannabis under federal law. They first made the request in July.

These are just the latest examples of legislators taking a demand for reform directly to the president, who has disappointed advocates in his first year in office by declining to take meaningful steps to change the country’s approach to cannabis despite campaigning on a pro-decriminalization and pro-rescheduling platform.

Since the election, neither the president or vide president—who sponsored a legalization bill while serving in the Senate—have spoken about their cannabis campaign pledges. And so far, the only pardons to take place under the Biden administration have benefited turkeys at a ceremonial Thanksgiving event.

That’s despite the repeated pleas of lawmakers and advocates.

Last month, a group of senators separately sent a letter urging Biden to use his executive authority to grant a mass pardon for people with non-violent marijuana convictions.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who led that letter, said during a recent interview that Biden could boost the economy and promote racial equity with the “stroke of a pen” by granting the relief.

A recently published Congressional Research Service (CRS) report affirmed that the president has it within his power to grant mass pardons for cannabis offenses. It also said that the administration can move to federally legalize cannabis without waiting for lawmakers to act.

Relatedly, a group of more than 150 celebrities, athletes, politicians, law enforcement professionals and academics signed a letter that was delivered to Biden in September, urging him to issue a “full, complete and unconditional pardon” to all people with non-violent federal marijuana convictions.

Warren and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) separately sent a letter to the attorney general in October, making the case that the Justice Department should initiate a marijuana descheduling process in order to “allow states to regulate cannabis as they see fit, begin to remedy the harm caused by decades of racial disparities in enforcement of cannabis laws, and facilitate valuable medical research.”

The White House said in August that the president was looking into using his executive authority to grant clemency to people with certain non-violent drug convictions.

In April, Psaki was pressed on Biden’s clemency promise for people with federal marijuana and said that process will start with modestly rescheduling cannabis—a proposal that advocates say wouldn’t actually accomplish what she’s suggesting.

Mississippi Lawmakers Positioned To Override Governor If He Vetoes Medical Marijuana Bill, GOP Senator Says

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Rhode Island Governor Includes Marijuana Legalization And Expungements In Budget Request

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The governor of Rhode Island has again included a proposal to legalize marijuana as part of his annual budget plan—and this time he also added new language to provide for automatic cannabis expungements in the state.

Gov. Dan McKee (D) released his request for the 2023 fiscal year on Thursday, calling for adult-use legalization as lawmakers say they’re separately nearing a deal on enacting the reform. It appears that an outstanding disagreement between the governor and legislators concerning what body should regulate the program remains unresolved based on the new budget proposal, however.

In general, McKee’s plan would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis, though it would not provide a home grow option. Adults could also store up to five ounces of marijuana in secured storage in their primary residence.

“The governor recommends creating a strictly regulated legal market for adult-use cannabis in the state,” an executive summary states. “This proposal would create a weight-based excise tax on marijuana cultivation, an additional retail excise tax of 10 percent, and also apply sales tax to cannabis transactions.”

Legislators have been in talks for months to reconcile competing legalization proposals that have been brought forward by the House, Senate and governor’s office previously. Now McKee is giving fresh details about what he hopes to see out of a potential policy change.

Under his plan, 25 percent of marijuana tax revenue and licensing fees would go to the “regulatory, public health, and public safety costs associated with adult-use cannabis.” Fifteen percent would go to local governments and 60 percent would go to the state general fund.

The executive summary says that the state’s sales tax revenue would be “boosted by the proposed introduction of adult-use cannabis tax revenue in FY 2023.” The state is estimating that it will collect $1.2 million in general revenue for the 2023 fiscal year and $16.9 “with a full year of sales in FY 2024.”

The revenue projections and provisions largely reflect what the governor proposed in his last budget request, with the exception of the new expungements language. Funding a process for expedited expungements is expected to cost the state about $400,000 for fiscal year 2023, the summary says.

“Prohibiting the possession, cultivation, and sale of cannabis to adults has proven to be an ineffective policy for the State of Rhode Island,” the findings section of the legislation itself says. “In the absence of a legal, tightly regulated market, an illicit cannabis industry has thrived, undermining the public health, safety and welfare of Rhode Islanders.”

“Regional and national shifts in cannabis policy have increased access to legal cannabis and marijuana products for Rhode Islanders in other states, the sale of which benefits the residents of the providing state while providing no funds to the State of Rhode Island to address the public health, safety and welfare externalities that come with increased access to cannabis, including marijuana.”

The effective date for the proposed bill would be April 1, 2023.

Not only does the governor’s plan not allow for home grow, it also sets out a series of fines and penalties for personal cultivation of any number of plants. For example, a person who unlawfully grows one to five plants would face a penalty of $2,000 per plant and an “order requiring forfeiture and/or destruction of said plants,” according to the text of the proposed legislation.

The bill also includes language to create a Cannabis Reinvestment Task Force that would be required to study and issue recommendations on using marijuana tax revenue for “job training, small business access to capital, affordable housing, health equity, and neighborhood and community development.”


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

The proposal calls for 25 marijuana retailers to be licensed each year for the first three years of implementation. Those would be awarded on a lottery basis, but at least five would be specifically given to minority-owned businesses, a category. Additional licenses would be issued in the future based on market demand.

During negotiations over recent months, a key question that’s needed to be resolved is who should be in charge of regulating the adult-use marijuana program—an existing agency or a newly created body.

McKee has again proposed having the state Department of Business Regulation (DBR) regulate the cannabis industry.

Earlier this month, lawmakers signaled that the best route to satisfy both sides would be to create a compromise approach where a state agency like DBR and a new independent cannabis commission would each play a role. The governor did not incorporate that hybrid regulatory model into his latest proposal.

House Speaker Joseph Sherkarchi (D) recently said in opening remarks at the start of the 2022 session that lawmakers have “spent months analyzing the complex issue of marijuana legalization.”

“The House and Senate intend to soon have a draft of legislation ready, which will serve as a framework to begin a robust public hearing process,” he said. “We may not be the first state to legalize marijuana, but our goal is to do it in a way that is best for all of Rhode Islanders.”

Sen. Josh Miller (D), sponsor of one legalization proposal that was approved in the Senate last year, recently told Marijuana Moment that he agreed that lawmakers “should have a bill very soon with a structure very close to” what the speaker described. Miller’s legislation had proposed creating a new cannabis commission to oversee the market.

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D) said in his session opening remarks this month that the bill the body passed last year “included substantial measures to rectify the wrongs associated with the decades-long policies of prohibition.”

He noted that Senate leaders have been working in recent months with the House on a deal that “maintains the core principles of our proposal.”

“Because of those efforts,” he said, “I anticipate the General Assembly will legalize cannabis this legislative session.”

The speaker previously said that he’d be open to a compromise on regulatory structure and hinted at the possibility of a hybrid model.

Another issue related to how many marijuana business licenses also appears to have gotten closer to resolution amid negotiations. Miller’s bill proposed as many as 150 cannabis shops, whereas McKee’s plan calls for 25 each year for the first three years and then gives regulators discretion to add more depending on market demand. Rep. Scott Slater’s (D) separate legalization measure recommended just 15 retailers in his House bill. Miller said at an event in October that “we’re probably down to more in the 30, 40 range” as part of a deal.

Negotiators also recently reached an agreement to place a temporary moratorium on approving additional cannabis cultivator licenses. Some have protested adding cultivators beyond the existing medical marijuana licensees because they say there’s already a sufficient supply to meet demand in the adult-use market.

Ruggerio, for his part, said in September that lawmakers are “very close” to reaching a deal on a marijuana legalization bill

“We sent legislation—which we think is a very good piece of legislation—over to the House before we left in June,” the senator said, referring to the legalization bill that his chamber approved in June. “They are working on that legislation with some of the House people at this point in time.”

Another thing that remains to be seen is whether the negotiated legalization bill that’s ultimately produced will satisfy advocates and progressive lawmakers, some of whom have rallied behind an agenda for reform that emphasizes the need for bold social equity provisions.

While each of the competing bills contain components meant to address the harms of marijuana criminalization, the coalition led by Reclaim Rhode Island has said they’re insufficient. Advocates and supportive lawmakers have laid out specific items that they want to see incorporated such as setting aside half of cannabis business licenses for communities most impacted by prohibition.

“We can’t reverse the harm of the war on drugs, but we can start to repair it by passing automatic expungement and waiving all related fines, fees and court debt,” Rep. Karen Alzate (D), chair of the Rhode Island Legislative Black and Latino Caucus, said in September. “This bold legalization plan offers us the chance to turn a new leaf for the Ocean State, and it’s time we take it.”

Ruggerio said he does feel that the legalization bill that was approved in the Senate contained “very strong social justice provisions” and the Senate’s expedited expungements provision is “as close to automatic as practical.”

He also said in July that he’s not disappointed the House hasn’t advanced legalization legislation yet and that “what we really wanted to do was send it over and have them take a look at it” when his chamber passed its cannabis reform measure.

A coalition of 10 civil rights and drug policy reform advocacy groups—including the Rhode Island chapters of the ACLU and NAACP—had demanded that lawmakers move ahead with enacting marijuana reform in the state before the end of 2021. But that did not pan out.

Lawmakers have noted that neighboring states like Connecticut and Massachusetts have enacted legalization, and that adds impetus for the legislature to pursue reform in the state.

Shekarchi, meanwhile, said in July that he doesn’t intend to let regional pressure dictate the timeline for when Rhode Island enacts a policy change. Social equity, licensing fees, labor agreements and home grow provisions are among the outstanding matters that need to be addressed, the speaker said.

The House Finance Committee held a hearing on Slater’s legalization measure in June.

The governor previously told reporters that while he backs legalization it is “not like one of my highest priorities,” adding that “we’re not in a race with Connecticut or Massachusetts on this issue.”

“I think we need to get it right,” he said, pointing to ongoing discussions with the House and Senate.

The House Finance Committee discussed the governor’s proposal to end prohibition at an earlier hearing in April.

Both the governor and the leaders’ legalization plans are notably different than the proposal that former Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) had included in her budget in 2020. Prior to leaving office to join the Biden administration as commerce secretary, she called for legalization through a state-run model.

McKee gave initial insights into his perspective on the reform last January, saying that “it’s time that [legalization] happens” and that he’s “more leaning towards an entrepreneurial strategy there to let that roll that way.”

Shekarchi, meanwhile, has said he’s “absolutely” open to the idea of cannabis legalization and also leans toward privatization.

In late 2020, the Senate Finance Committee began preliminary consideration of legalization in preparation for the 2021 session, with lawmakers generally accepting the reform as an inevitability. “I certainly do think we’ll act on the issue, whether it’s more private or more state,” Sen. Ryan Pearson (D), who now serves as the panel’s chairman, said at the time.

Meanwhile, the governor in July signed a historic bill to allow safe consumption sites where people could use illicit drugs under medical supervision and receive resources to enter treatment. Harm reduction advocates say this would prevent overdose deaths and help de-stigmatize substance misuse. Rhode Island is the first state to allow the facilities.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also held a hearing last year on legislation that would end criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of drugs and replace them with a $100 fine.

Read the text of the governor’s marijuana legalization proposal below: 

Virginia Psilocybin Decriminalization Bill Enjoys Bipartisan Support In Senate Committee, But Revisions Are Forthcoming

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Virginia Psilocybin Decriminalization Bill Enjoys Bipartisan Support In Senate Committee, But Revisions Are Forthcoming

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A Virginia Senate committee on Wednesday discussed a bill to decriminalize psilocybin, with members on both sides of the aisle expressing general support for the concept—but a vote was delayed until next week to consider feedback on possible revisions to put a more specific focus on authorizing the substance for therapeutic use.

The Senate Judiciary Committee took up the legislation from Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D), hearing testimony from advocates, military veterans and other people who have benefitted from psychedelics therapy. The legislation would make possession of psilocybin and psilocyn by adults 21 and older a civil penalty that carries a $100 fine, instead of a Class 5 felony.

Any dollars collected from psychedelics possession violations would go to the state’s Drug Offender Assessment and Treatment Fund, which supports substance misuse treatment programs and drug courts.

There was some bipartisan support for the proposal, but one Republican member suggested centering the focus on medical use, rather than broadly decriminalize the substances, to make it more passable in the newly GOP-controlled House.

Sen. Mark Peake (R) said that he felt the measure as introduced would stand a solid chance of advancing through the committee and full Senate under Democratic control, but he said, “I bet the House is not ready for that.”

He recommended changing the legislation “to make it where [psilocybin is] medically prescribed,” to follow a similar policy trajectory that the state followed for marijuana.

“The bill the way it is written, where anyone can possess it for any reason, I don’t see how that would get through the House in this session,” the senator said.

Hashmi was amenable to the suggestion and said that “we have an opportunity to continue to work on the bill, put in the safety rails that you are recommending—I think that would be a really good direction.”

In her opening remarks, the senator said that a growing number of studies are “demonstrating that psilocybin has the potential, really, to alleviate a lot of mental health issues, and especially for those folks for whom other medications are simply not working.”

“Preliminary research is showing that it also perhaps helps with substance addiction. We know that substance abuse, substance addiction, is a direct corollary to the rising use of opioid treatment,” she said. “Psilocybin might be an appropriate antidote to providing medical care service for folks with depression and PTSD in ways that are other drugs are not able to do.”


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Notably, Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment (R) also voiced support for the proposal. He said that while in his early career “the mantra was get tough on crime,” public opinion has shifted, as has medical research.

“Sometimes I think we have to rely upon intuition and take a change,” he said. “I listened to the testimonies today—and they’re not testimonies that I’ve heard for the first time. So I’m going to support this because I generally think it’s going to provide some relief and help individuals.”

The committee is expected to vote on an amended version of the bill next Wednesday.

There’s a separate, similar psychedelics reform proposal that’s been filed in the House. It hasn’t gone to committee yet, but it would decriminalize a wider array of substances for adults over 21, including peyote and ibogaine in addition to psilocybin and psilocyn.

At a recent virtual event organized by the reform group Decriminalize Nature Virginia, the sponsors of both bills participated as hosts, sharing their perspectives about the growing body of research indicating that psychedelics could be powerful tools to combat conditions like treatment-resistant depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

If the legislature does approve the legislation, it could face resistance from the state’s incoming Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, who has expressed concerns about implementing a commercial marijuana market in line with what the Democratic legislature and outgoing governor approved last year.

The filing of the psychedelics bills in Virginia is just the latest example of state lawmakers following the tide of local decriminalization efforts that have played out across the country.

For example, a GOP Utah lawmaker introduced a bill on Tuesday that would set up a task force to study and make recommendations on the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs and possible regulations for their lawful use.

In Kansas, A lawmaker also recently filed a bill to legalize the low-level possession and cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms.

A Republican Missouri lawmaker introduced a bill last week to give residents with serious illnesses legal access to a range of psychedelic drugs like psilocybin, ibogaine and LSD  through an expanded version of the state’s existing right-to-try law.

California Sen. Scott Wiener (D) told Marijuana Moment in a recent interview that his bill to legalize psychedelics possession stands a 50/50 chance of reaching the governor’s desk this year. It already cleared the full Senate and two Assembly committees during the first half of the two-year session.

In Michigan, a pair of state senators introduced a bill in September to legalize the possession, cultivation and delivery of various plant- and fungi-derived psychedelics like psilocybin and mescaline.

Washington State lawmakers also introduced legislation this month that would legalize what the bill calls “supported psilocybin experiences” by adults 21 and older.

In Vermont, a broad coalition of lawmakers representing nearly a third of the House introduced a bill to decriminalize drug possession.

New Hampshire lawmakers filed measures to decriminalize psilocybin and all drugs.

Last year, the governor of Connecticut signed legislation that includes language requiring the state to carry out a study into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms.

Similar legislation was also enacted in the Texas legislature, requiring the state to study the medical risks and benefits of psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine for military veterans in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine and a military-focused medical center.

Voters in Oregon approved 2020 ballot measures to decriminalize all drugs and legalize psilocybin therapy.

At the congressional level, bipartisan lawmakers sent a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on Tuesday, urging that the agency allow terminally ill patients to use psilocybin as an investigational treatment without the fear of federal prosecution.

Most Americans Predict Biden Won’t Uphold Marijuana Decriminalization Promise In 2022, Poll Finds

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Workman.

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Most Americans Predict Biden Won’t Uphold Marijuana Decriminalization Promise In 2022, Poll Finds

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A new poll shows that more than half of Americans feel that President Joe Biden has made little to no progress on a key campaign pledge to decriminalize marijuana during his first year in office—and most people also aren’t betting on him doing more to advance the reform in 2022.

The survey from YouGov and The Economist asked Americans to rate the president’s performance on six campaign promises in his first year and separately say how much progress they think he will make in the new year.

Fifty-four percent said Biden has made little to no progress on cannabis decriminalization while 23 percent said they didn’t know. Just 23 percent said that he’s made some or a lot of progress on the issue.

Via YouGov.

Respondents said they felt Biden made somewhat more progress on four of the other issues—student loan forgiveness, clean energy infrastructure, raising the federal minimum wage and COVID-19 response. Only on the issue of securing bipartisan cooperation in Congress for economic relief did Biden get lower scores than for cannabis reform.

Democrats were most likely to give Biden good marks for his progress on several of these issues, but 42 percent said that he’s made little to no progress on decriminalization. In contrast, 73 percent of those who identify as Republicans said he’s done little to advance the reform, even if that cohort is less supportive of the proposal overall.

Asked separately to look ahead for expectations in 2022, pessimism abounds, with 58 percent of respondents saying they anticipate the president will make little to no progress on marijuana decriminalization despite promising it to voters ahead of the 2020 election. Twenty-six percent said they weren’t sure what to expect and only 16 percent said they believe he’ll make some or a lot of progress.

Via YouGov.

The poll also asked respondents how they personally view each of the campaign promises, and 58 percent said they support marijuana decriminalization, compared to 25 percent who are opposed.

After his first year in the White House, Americans have good reason to be skeptical about how committed Biden is to fulfilling his marijuana pledges. Beside decriminalization, he also said on the campaign trail that he’d move to reschedule cannabis and grant clemency to people with federal marijuana convictions—and none of that has happened yet.

The YouGov survey involved interviews with 1,500 Americans from January 15-18. The margin of error is ±3 percentage points.

While experts say it may not be possible for a president to unilaterally remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, he could encourage agencies like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Justice Department to initiate the rescheduling process.

And while the poll didn’t ask respondents about clemency for marijuana prisoners, it’s a major unfulfilled promise that’s especially frustrating to advocates considering that he could grant a mass pardon with a stroke of the pen.

Biden has received about a dozen letters from lawmakers, advocates, celebrities and people impacted by criminalization to do something about the people who remain behind federal bars over cannabis. After months of inaction, some members of Congress like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have even sent follow-up letters demanding a response.

Missouri Lawmaker Files Bill To Decriminalize Low-Level Drug Possession

Photo courtesy of Jurassic Blueberries.

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