Democratic U.S. senators are urging President Joe Biden (D) to use his executive authority to pardon all individuals convicted on federal non-violent cannabis-related offenses. In the November 9 letter, Senators Edward Markey (Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.) – who each represent states where cannabis has been legalized for adult-use – say the move would fulfill the president’s campaign promises related to federal cannabis policies.
“As a candidate for President, you argued that ‘we should decriminalize marijuana’ and ‘everyone [with a marijuana record] should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out.’ The first and simplest step in the process is a blanket pardon. The Constitution grants you the authority to pardon broad classes of Americans to correct widespread injustice, as previous Presidents have done.” – Markey, Warren, and Merkley in the November 9 letter
The senators described the U.S.’s cannabis policies as “failed and racist,” noting that the first anti-cannabis laws were created “specifically target Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans” and that the War on Drugs launched in the 1970s by then-President Richard Nixon (R) spawned “mass incarceration policies with devastating effects on Black and Brown families.”
“…Such a pardon – combined with your leadership on an accessible expungement process to formally clear the criminal records of those affected – would mark the beginning of a reversal of decades of ineffective and discriminatory cannabis policies,” the senators wrote, “allowing Americans to return to their communities, find housing and jobs, and rebuild their lives without the burdens of an unjustly imposed criminal record.”
Last month, Warren and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging the Department of Justice to decriminalize cannabis by removing it from the federal controlled substances list.
In that letter, the senators requested the attorney general to respond as to whether he would consider ordering a review by the Department of Health and Human Services review – the first step in the process – by October 20. Garland did not initiate such a review.
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