In a letter to President Joe Biden (D), 17 members of Congress requested his Administration extend pardons of simple cannabis possession convictions to immigrants and reopen the immigration cases of those who were deported for cannabis offenses.
The letter signatories include Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Ilhan Omar (MN), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL), Barbara Lee (CA), Cori Bush (MO), Jan Schakowsky (IL), Adriano Espaillat (NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Dwight Evans (PA), Juan Vargas (CA), Marie Newman (IL), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ), Danny Davis (IL), Ritchie Torres (NY), Rashida Tlaib (MI), Jimmy Gomez (CA), and Jamaal Bowman (NY).
“Using the power of the pardon is a constitutional imperative and a critical tool in rectifying the compounding racial injustices of draconian drug policies. However, continuing to deport immigrants for simple marijuana possession will only exacerbate racial disparities, traumatize families and communities vital to this country’s fabric, and create ineffective legal regimes at taxpayers’ expense. This is especially true given the racial disparities that exist for Black migrants. Not only are black individuals four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, but a 2021 study found that Black immigrants in ICE detention were also more likely to be detained and up to six times as likely to be placed in solitary confinement.” — Letter to Biden, Nov. 14, 2022
The representatives also call on Biden to federally decriminalize and deschedule cannabis. The letter’s authors say those reforms, paired with the pardon, “would restore the lives and dignity of thousands of migrants who were deported for conduct that is now legal in varying capacities across 41 states.”
“After decades of the failed war on drugs and the countless lives and families it ruined, our country must begin repairing those harms,” the letter states. “Granting pardons to all simple marijuana possession offenses – regardless of immigration status – demonstrates genuine compassion while ensuring that our country continues to mitigate the inhumane and ineffective drudge policies that have ravaged communities of color for so long.”
Last month, Biden issued a pardon for all federal cannabis possession charges and said his Administration would review potential descheduling. A subsequent YouGov America poll found 62% of Americans backed the pardons. Following Biden’s announcement, Health & Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said that the agency intended to move “as quickly” as they could to deliver on Biden’s request for the review of federal cannabis laws.
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