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Impact of Biden’s pardon of simple marijuana possession convictions

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)– President Biden recently announced he is pardoning all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession. He said thousands of people may have been denied employment, housing, or educational education because of their conviction.

The president said black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at discorporate rates. The president is now directing the U.S. Attorney General to develop an administrative process to issue pardon certificates to those eligible.

“A very discreet set of former prisoners are the ones who are going to be impacted by this,” said Lauren Rudick, partner of the Cannabis Law Practice at Hiller PC. “We are talking about 6,000 or 6,500 people who are federal offenders.”

The pardon is only for the offense of simple marijuana possession.

“Simple marijuana possession is basically, you had it in your pocket. There was no intent to distribute it, that’s very important to note as well. This is strictly somebody has x amount of marijuana in their possession, and they are charged under a federal crime,” explained Ryan McCall, an attorney at Tully Rinckey.

The president also called on governors to have a similar pardon for state marijuana offenses.

“Federal prisoners actually do not make up the bulk of prisoners associated with cannabis arrests, most of those arrests are happening at the state level,” stated Rudick.

New York State’s Office of Cannabis Management thinks the president’s announcement is a step in the right direction and stated, “Here in New York, we’ve already cleared the record of more than 400,000 cannabis arrest records and we’re prioritizing those impacted the most for participation in the equitable industry we’re working at building.”

Biden also asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services as well as the U.S. Attorney General to review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.

“It’s currently classified, cannabis, as a schedule 1 drug, along with Heroin and LSD,” said McCall.
“This isn’t something Americans are overdosing on a regular basis compared to some of the other schedule 1 drugs. So I think really what you’re beginning to see with the Biden administration is how can we make this equitable for everyone that has a previous conviction.”

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