On Thursday, President Biden issued a statement saying he would issue pardons for Federal cannabis convictions involving simple possession.
“Today, I am announcing three steps that I am taking to end this failed approach. First, I am announcing a pardon of all prior Federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana,” the President said. This marks the most significant step toward alleviating the failures of the War on Drugs by any administration. “I have directed the Attorney General to develop an administrative process for the issuance of certificates of pardon to eligible individuals. There are thousands of people who have prior Federal convictions for marijuana possession, who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result. My action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions.”
In the same statement, President Biden called on governors across the country to make the decision to pardon state level cannabis prisoners as well.
“I am urging all Governors to do the same with regard to state offenses. Just as no one should be in a Federal prison solely due to the possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either,” President Biden continued.
Despite the President’s urging, Kelli Jones, Communications Director for Governor Mike Parson, told The Kansas City Star that Missouri would not be issuing mass pardons.
“President Biden’s action is limited to individuals who violated federal law and does not implicate state law in any way.”
“In Missouri, those with criminal records can apply for expungement under state law. Governor Parson has used his state constitutional authority to grant pardons to individuals who demonstrate a changed life-style, commitment to rehabilitation, contrition, and contribution to their communities – rather than as a blanket approach to undermine existing law.”
With a vote for adult use marijuana legalization just weeks away, the Governor’s position could come under even more scrutiny in a short period of time.
Should adult use legalization pass, not only would those age 21 and over be able to legally possess and grow marijuana for personal use in Missouri, Amendment 3 also provides for expungement for all nonviolent marijuana-related convictions involving possession of less than three pounds that don’t involve driving under the influence or distribution to minors. Additionally, the amendment also creates a framework for those currently serving a sentence, probation, or parole to petition the court to vacate the sentence and order immediate release.
If Amendment 3 passes, it could create even more pressure on the Governor’s office to revisit the idea of pardons.
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