The Justice Department extending a public comment period concerning its marijuana pardon certification process that was established under a directive from the president last year.
In a notice published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, DOJ’s Office of the Pardon Attorney said the comment window will now be open until August 15 as it requests authorization from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to process applications for cannabis pardon certificates for an additional three years, rather than continue to request approval on a month-to-month basis.
The department launched an online portal for people to submit their request for the formal acknowledgment of their presidential pardon in March. People who’ve committed federal cannabis possession offenses, or violated the law in Washington, D.C., are eligible for the relief.
President Joe Biden issued the pardon directive, while also initiating an administrative review into the federal scheduling of marijuana, late last year. The pardons were processed automatically, but DOJ is also providing certifications for those who want tangible proof of the forgiveness.
“Written comments and suggestions from the public and affected agencies concerning the proposed collection of information are encouraged,” the new notice says.
The department is specifically interested in feedback that addresses whether collecting the additional information under the extended timeline “is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information will have practical utility.”
It’s also interested in receiving comments on “the accuracy of the agency’s estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used.”
“DOJ seeks [Paperwork Reduction Act] authorization for this information collection for three (3) years,” it says. “OMB authorization for an [information collection request] cannot be for more than three (3) years without renewal. The DOJ notes that information collection requirements submitted to the OMB for existing ICRs receive a month-to-month extension while they undergo review.”
The department said that the purpose of the information collection “is to gather information necessary to enable the Office of the Pardon Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice to expeditiously administer the provisions of the Executive Order 10467, a proclamation granting pardons to individuals charged or convicted of simple possession of marijuana.”
“The collection will enable individuals to apply for certificates of pardon, restoring political, civil, and other rights by implementing a process to provide certificates of pardon as provided by the order,” DOJ said.
Overall, it estimates that approximately 20,000 people will complete the required forms to apply for the pardon certificates.
Comments can be submitted to Deputy Pardon Attorney Kira Gillespie at [email protected].
Pardon Attorney Elizabeth Oyer said in December that the online application would be posted “very soon,” but activists have expressed frustration about the delay in the pardon certification rollout, which was ultimately launched in March.
Biden’s pardon proclamation was fairly limited in scope, as it did not free anyone who is currently incarcerated and excludes people who were convicted of selling cannabis, among other groups that advocates would like to see get relief.
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Meanwhile, DOJ and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are in the process of fulfilling the other part of the president’s cannabis directive, reviewing the scheduling status of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The president has routinely touted both moves as consistent with the administration’s efforts to promote social equity.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra told Marijuana Moment last month that he’s hoping to deliver on the president’s scheduling directive by the year’s end. And congressional marijuana reform leaders said that they are encouraged by that timetable.
“I will be disappointed if we cannot make significant progress within the year,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, told Marijuana Moment. “There should be a greater sense of urgency for this long overdue action.”
Blumenauer also led a letter to Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland in March, alongside 15 other bipartisan members of Congress, demanding transparency in the cannabis scheduling review.
Rep. Barbara Lee, another co-chair of the caucus, said last month that the Biden administration needs to take action on federal cannabis scheduling “now,” before the upcoming election.
Once HHS finalizes its review, it will send a scheduling recommendation to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which makes the final call. The health agency’s scientific findings are binding, but DEA could theoretically flout the resulting recommendation.
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.