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President Pardons People Convicted of Simple Marijuana Offenses

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Dec. 20, 2023,
FILE - President Joe Biden speaks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Dec. 20, 2023,

U.S. President Joe Biden issued a proclamation Friday granting full and unconditional pardons to anyone convicted in the United States for the use or possession of marijuana.

The president also issued an order Friday commuting the sentences of 11 people he said are currently serving unduly long sentences for nonviolent drug offenses, including possession with the intent to distribute small amounts of cocaine and methamphetamine, commonly known as meth.

In a statement, Biden said he took both actions to more faithfully apply equal justice under the law. He said, "elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect this core value that makes our communities safer and stronger."

Regarding the 11 sentences he commuted, Biden said the defendants each had been given disproportionately long sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. All of them would have been eligible to receive significantly lower sentences if they were charged with the same offense today.

As for the pardoning of all convictions for simple possession and use of marijuana, in his statement the president said too many lives were upended because of what he called the nation's "failed approach to marijuana."

"Criminal records for marijuana use and possession have imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities," he said. "It is time to right these wrongs." He urged state governors to do the same with state offenses.

The proclamation said the pardons do not apply to any other offenses involving other controlled substances or activity beyond simple possession of marijuana, such as possession of marijuana with intent to distribute or driving offenses committed while under the influence of marijuana.

Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press and Reuters.

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