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Congressional Call to Action: Urging President Biden to Commute Sentences for Non-Violent Marijuana Offenses

A group of 36 congressional representatives is urging President Joe Biden to extend clemency to Americans serving time in federal prison for non-violent marijuana offenses by commuting their sentences. This call for action emphasizes the point that Biden's previous pardons for simple possession have not led to the release of any incarcerated individuals.

The appeal, initiated by the co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), highlights the discrepancy between current societal and legal perspectives on marijuana and the ongoing incarceration for marijuana-related offenses. These continued imprisonments, they argue, perpetuate the racially biased impacts of the War on Drugs and pose an unnecessary moral and judicial burden.

The lawmakers reminded President Biden of his 2020 campaign promises to decriminalize marijuana federally, release those jailed for its use, and clear criminal records related to it. They pointed out that, contrary to his claims, his pardons have not led to expungements or releases from prison. They also criticized the limited impact of his pardons, noting that they fail to address the broader consequences of felony marijuana charges, which significantly affect individuals' lives beyond simple criminal records.

Furthermore, the letter, sent just before a meeting between Vice President Kamala Harris and individuals pardoned for cannabis offenses, stresses the inconsistency of federal enforcement of marijuana prohibitions with the evolving state laws and public opinion against it. It calls for an expansion of clemency to truly reflect the changed landscape of marijuana legislation and societal views.

Highlighted in their message are the cases of Jerry Haymon and Danny Travino, both serving sentences for non-violent federal marijuana distribution convictions, underscoring the real human impact of these laws. Haymon, in a statement, expressed hope that the lawmakers' action signals a shift towards justice and rehabilitation.

The signatories implore President Biden to use his powers to commute sentences for marijuana offenses, pardon those already living free but still burdened by their criminal records, and support legislative efforts to expunge these offenses. Such actions, they argue, would align with Biden's campaign pledges and represent a significant step towards rectifying the injustices of past drug policies.

Weldon Angelos, a recipient of a presidential pardon for a cannabis case under the Trump administration, echoed the sentiment that incarcerating individuals for actions now legal in many states is fundamentally unjust. Rep. Lee also emphasized the need for comprehensive reform beyond the president's pardons, advocating for the complete removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, a stance further supported by Blumenauer's criticisms of the DEA and HHS's slow progress on cannabis research deregulation.


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