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)
Every president since George H.W. Bush has exercised their pardoning power for cannabis offenses.
— Earl Blumenauer (@repblumenauer) February 18, 2021
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)
The War on Drugs has wreaked havoc on Black & Brown communities. In our fight for cannabis reform, we must work toward restorative justice for those most impacted.
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) February 18, 2021
Discriminatory cannabis policies like the War on Drugs are rooted in systemic racism.
That’s why it’s so important for @POTUS to pardon past federal marijuana convictions.
— Barbara Lee (@BLeeForCongress) February 20, 2021
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)
After years of a racist and harmful war on drugs, Black and Brown Americans are significantly more likely to have a conviction or be incarcerated for cannabis possession.
Pardoning cannabis convictions is a matter of racial justice. Let's make it happen. #CannabisJusticeNOW
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) February 18, 2021
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN)
No one should be in prison for marijuana possession.
Pardon cannabis convictions now. #CannabisJusticeNOW
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) February 18, 2021
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA)
Marijuana criminalization has been used as a tool for oppression but we have a chance to take action towards equity. I’m joining @RepBlumenauer & @RepBarbaraLee in urging the Biden admin to pardon federal marijuana convictions for non-violent use & possession #CannabisJusticeNOW https://t.co/7CFVzXx7UY
— Rep. Jared Huffman (@RepHuffman) February 21, 2021
Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL)
Cannabis is legal in 36 states for recreation or medicinal use, including FL. Cannabis convictions destroy lives & communities – disproportionately communities of color. Joining call for @POTUS to pardon all convicted of non-violent federal marijuana offenses. #CannabisJusticeNow pic.twitter.com/7QmyL4ETfF
— Congressman Charlie Crist (@RepCharlieCrist) February 18, 2021
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY)
Black Americans are disproportionately arrested for cannabis use and possession, despite rates of usage and possession being nearly even across racial groups.
— Congressman Jamaal Bowman (@RepBowman) February 18, 2021
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ)
The failed War on Drugs has done terrible damage to communities across the country.
I’m joining @RepBlumenauer and @RepBarbaraLee in urging the Biden administration to pardon cannabis convictions. #CannabisJusticeNOW
— Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (@RepBonnie) February 18, 2021
Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA)
I support legalizing cannabis and I co-signed this letter to @POTUS calling for #CannabisJusticeNow!
I’ve also sponsored the Homegrown Act to help people of color & small businesses to participate in the booming cannabis industry:https://t.co/Do7ek2STWB https://t.co/qPD7pQG3Nl
— Congressman Dwight Evans (@RepDwightEvans) February 18, 2021
In case you missed it, I am joining 36 of my colleagues in Congress in calling on President Biden to pardon those with federal nonviolent marijuana offenses. https://t.co/f5Rf2eGg6d pic.twitter.com/Zt7flhSSok
— Dwight Evans (@DwightEvansPA) February 20, 2021
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN)
— Rep. Betty McCollum (@BettyMcCollum04) February 18, 2021
Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL)
Did you know that Black Americans are 3.6x more likely to be arrested for cannabis-related crimes than white Americans? Pardoning past cannabis convictions is racial justice. President Biden: We need #CannabisJusticeNOW pic.twitter.com/Cea7Q04OjB
— Rep. Danny K. Davis (@RepDannyDavis) February 18, 2021
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
For decades, discriminatory cannabis policies have been used as a tool of oppression. Today I Joined @repblumenauer and @RepBarbaraLee to urge @POTUS to honor his campaign commitment and pardon federal marijuana convictions for non-violent use and possession. #CannabisJusticeNOW pic.twitter.com/oZM9H1lLy7
— Carolyn B. Maloney (@RepMaloney) February 19, 2021
Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI)
Today, I joined @repblumenauer and @RepBarbaraLee to urge President Biden to honor his commitment and pardon all past federal marijuana convictions for non-violent use and possession. #CannabisJusticeNOW pic.twitter.com/QxkGs1Sq5M
— Brenda Lawrence (@RepLawrence) February 18, 2021
Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA)
Black Americans are 3.6x more likely to be arrested for cannabis-related offenses than white Americans. This racial injustice must end.
We need #CannabisJusticeNOW.
— Rep. Jake Auchincloss (@RepAuchincloss) February 18, 2021
Rep. David Trone (D-MD)
For too long, cannabis convictions have disproportionately impacted people of color. Pardoning cannabis convictions is a necessary step toward reforming our broken justice system and achieving racial justice. #CannabisJusticeNOW
— Rep. David Trone (@RepDavidTrone) February 18, 2021
Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY)
It’s past time to end the failed, racist war on drugs, which has devastated communities of color for decades.
— Rep. Mondaire Jones (@RepMondaire) February 19, 2021
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
— Alcee L. Hastings (@RepHastingsFL) February 19, 2021
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.”
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.