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Justice Department Launches Marijuana Pardon Certificate Application



The Department of Justice on Friday launched an application form that people who were covered under President Joe Biden’s mass marijuana pardon can fill out to demonstrate that they were granted clemency.

In October, Biden issued a proclamation granting a pardon to people who have committed cannabis possession offenses under federal law and in Washington, D.C. The relief was automatic, but advocates have pushed officials to provide an application that people can use to obtain certificates showing they are covered. That could be useful for those whose prior convictions are preventing them from obtaining jobs or housing, for example.

“Those who were pardoned on Oct. 6, 2022, are eligible for a certificate of pardon,” the Justice Department said. “Consistent with the proclamation, to be eligible for a certificate, an applicant must have been charged or convicted of simple possession of marijuana in either a federal court or D.C. Superior Court, and the applicant must have been lawfully within the United States at the time of the offense. Similarly, an individual must have been a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident on Oct. 6, 2022.”

“The President’s pardon lifts barriers to housing, employment and educational opportunities for thousands of people with those prior convictions,” the department said, while clarifying that “those who were convicted of state marijuana offenses do not qualify for the pardon.”

The launch of the application comes one day after the Office of the Pardon Attorney released a draft Federal Register notice about the forthcoming form.

The form itself can be filled out and mailed in or completed online. It asks for basic information about a person’s qualifying federal cannabis offense, as well as demographic data.

The Federal Register notice described the new form and the information it requests from applicants:

“The application asks applicants to confirm that the petitioner is U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who was lawfully in the country at the time the marijuana offense occurred; the alien registration or citizenship number of a lawful permanent resident or naturalized citizen applicant; information regarding the specific court in which the applicant was charged or convicted and the date of said conviction, if any; information regarding the applicant’s race, gender, and ethnicity; identifying information regarding the applicant’s date and place of birth; and documentation of the applicant’s charge or convictions.”

In addition to being used to process pardon certificates, “the information may also be used to provide statistical analysis of the demographics of pardon recipients and applicants,” the notice says.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who co-chairs the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, praised the application’s launch on Friday.

“This is another small, but critical step with the Biden Administration coming to terms with the new cannabis realities, and taking another step in the right direction,” he said in a press release.

Pardon Attorney Elizabeth Oyer said in December that the online application would be posted “very soon,” but as the months have gone on, activists have expressed frustration about the delay.

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.

The Pardon Attorney’s office says it estimates that “at least 20,000 applicants may apply” for certificates using the new form once it receives final approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget.

“The application for the certificate is simple, and will not take long to complete, between 10 and 30 minutes,” the Federal Register notice says. “The applicants must also provide proof of their prior convictions or charges, which we estimate would take anywhere between 10 minutes to two hours of effort, including research, phone calls, and conversations with necessary personnel to attain the appropriate documentation.”

“Therefore, the Pardon Attorney estimates that it would take approximately 20 minutes, but likely no longer than 2.5 hours per individual to provide the information necessary for the collection,” the filing states.

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.


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