President Biden broadens cannabis pardons, commutes sentences of non-violent offenders

white house issues cannabis pardons

More marijuana convictions could be overturned thanks to an updated cannabis pardons initiative from the White House. President Joe Biden issued a proclamation Friday expanding his October 2022 pardon plan, opting to include convictions for simple possession and/or consumption on federal land.

“As I have said before, convictions for simple possession of marijuana have imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities,” Biden said in his proclamation.

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The President urged state governors to follow suit, saying in a Tweet that no one should be in jail for the use or possession of cannabis.

It’s unclear how many individuals will benefit from the president’s pardon expansion, and people who were non-citizens at the time of their arrest do not qualify. The initiative also does not apply to those charged with intent to distribute marijuana or driving under the influence.

In addition to the pardons, President Biden commuted the sentences of 11 non-violent drug offenders. Many were given lengthy prison stays related to the possession and distribution of crack cocaine—none of the individuals were convicted of cannabis crimes.

“All of them would have been eligible to receive significantly lower sentences if they were charged with the same offense today,” Biden said of the clemency recipients.

Despite his assertion that “too many lives have been upended due to our failed approach” to prohibition, President Biden has stopped short of enacting legitimate reform. The updated pardons come as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) debates whether to reschedule cannabis as recommended by the Health and Human Services Department, an examination Biden ordered last year.

Many Washington insiders believe the DEA will make the change sometime before the 2024 presidential election. However, it remains to be seen how the reform will impact restorative justice. 


rachelle gordon

Rachelle Gordon is a cannabis journalist, Emerald Cup judge, Budist critic, and editor of She began her weed writing journey in 2015 and has been featured in High Times, CannabisNow, Beard Bros, MG, Skunk, and many others. Rachelle currently splits her time between Minneapolis and Oakland; her favorite cannabis cultivars include Silver Haze and Tangie. Follow Rachelle on Instagram @rachellethewriter