President Biden Pardons Federal Simple Possession of Marijuana Convictions

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On October 6, President Biden issued a proclamation granting pardons for all federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana. The proclamation directs the Attorney General, acting through the Pardon Attorney, to administer the program including issuing certificates of pardon to eligible applicants who have been charged with or convicted of simple possession of marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.

In his accompanying statement, President Biden stated “no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana” and commented that “[c]riminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities.” President Biden also acknowledged that such convictions impact peopleof color at disproportionate rates even though marijuana usage occurs at similar rates across races.

President Biden also urged state governors to take similar action in terms of granting pardons for simple marijuana possession offenses under state law. Finally, he asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services in conjunction with the Attorney General to “initiate the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.” Despite this direction, he noted that other limitations on trafficking, marketing, and under-age sales should remain in place.

Employers are witnessing a constant evolution of marijuana both in terms of general societal attitudes and impactful state laws—and now, federal action. Employers are encouraged to discuss the many legislative and litigation-related developments with qualified legal counsel to determine if any changes are needed to their workplace drug policies or drug testing program.

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