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Lawmakers Step Up Push For Biden To Grant Mass Marijuana Pardons

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More than a dozen members of Congress have stepped up their push for President Joe Biden to grant mass clemency for people with federal marijuana convictions, taking to Twitter to amplify a sign-on letter they sent to the White House urging the action.

Shortly after the letter was released, with 37 congressional signatories, members gave it a signal boost with a flood of social media posts directed at the president. They want Biden to follow the lead of Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, who used executive authority in the 1970s to categorically forgive Americans who avoided the draft for the Vietnam War.

In the letter—led by Congressional Cannabis Caucus cochairs Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA)—the lawmakers noted the expansion of the state-legal marijuana legalization movement and last year’s House vote in favor of a bill to end federal cannabis prohibition.

However, “until the day that Congress sends you a marijuana reform bill to sign, you have a unique ability to lead on criminal justice reform and provide immediate relief to thousands of Americans,” they wrote.

The message echoed on Twitter following the letter’s release. Here’s what lawmakers are saying about the push for a general pardon for marijuana offenders and #CannabisJusticeNOW:

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN)

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA)

Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL)

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY)

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ)

Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA)

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN)

Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL)

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)

Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI)

Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA)

Rep. David Trone (D-MD)

Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY)

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL)

NORML Political Director Justin Strekal praised the lawmakers for not being afraid to pressure the president of their own party to act on cannabis.

“On behalf of the supermajority of Americans who support the legalization of cannabis, we thank the courageous lawmakers who are insisting that President Biden honor his campaign commitment and pardon those who have been convicted of federal nonviolent marijuana offenses,” he told Marijuana Moment.

A general pardon, as the lawmakers are calling for, is distinct from the individual acts of clemency that have been done by the past few presidents. What Carter did in 1977 was issue a proclamation laying out criteria for who would be eligible for relief. Those who violated the Military Selective Service Act by avoiding the draft in a certain timeframe were able, under his action, to submit documentation to show that they qualify and would then be systematically pardoned.

The letter also points out that Biden voiced support for automatic expungements for prior marijuana convictions during his campaign. But while he backs modest reforms like expungements, legalizing medical cannabis, rescheduling marijuana and letting states set their own cannabis policies, the president remains opposed to adult-use legalization.

On Monday, a coalition of advocacy and industry groups made a similar plea to the Biden administration, using Presidents Day to send a letting urging him to “to clearly demonstrate your commitment to criminal justice reform by immediately issuing a general pardon to all former federal, non-violent cannabis offenders.”

Cory Booker Tells Biden Nominee That Marijuana Convictions Shouldn’t Disqualify People From Federal Aid

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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