Washington, DC: A recent directive by the President of the United States to pardon those with low-level federal marijuana possession convictions will provide forgiveness for 6,557 citizens, according to estimates provided by the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC).
The USSC analysis includes federal data dating back to 1992. It found that the greatest percentage of those eligible for relief are located either in the southwest or the mid-Atlantic region of the United States.
According to the US Department of Justice, a Presidential pardon “is an expression of the President’s forgiveness and ordinarily is granted in recognition of the applicant’s acceptance of responsibility for the crime and established good conduct for a significant period of time after conviction or completion of sentence. It does not signify innocence. It does, however, remove civil disabilities – e.g., restrictions on the right to vote, hold state or local office, or sit on a jury – imposed because of the conviction for which pardon is sought, and should lessen the stigma arising from the conviction. It may also be helpful in obtaining licenses, bonding, or employment.”
On October 6, President Joe Biden announced his intent to “pardon of all prior Federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana.” The President also announced that he was encouraging Governors to take similar actions.
To date, nearly two dozen states have enacted legislation explicitly facilitating the process of having select marijuana convictions expunged, vacated, otherwise set aside, or sealed from public view. These laws have led state and local officials nationwide to expunge or seal the records of over two million people with prior cannabis convictions. In addition, the Governors of Colorado, Nevada, Illinois, and Washington have also granted an estimated 30,000 pardons to those with low-level marijuana convictions.
Since 1965, nearly 29 million Americans have been arrested for violating state or local marijuana laws, according to archived data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report.
Additional information on state laws providing for the expungement of past marijuana convictions is available from NORML.