March 14, 2024

Representatives Lee, Blumenauer, Colleagues Call on Biden Administration to Grant Clemency for Non-Violent Cannabis Offenses

Washington, DC – Today, Democratic Cannabis Caucus Co-Chairs Representatives Barbara Lee (CA-12) and Earl Blumenauer (OR-3) led a letter to President Biden urging his administration to grant clemency to individuals incarcerated for non-violent marijuana offenses.

For decades, unfair cannabis policies have led to unjust incarcerations and worsened racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Since the passage of the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, it has become increasingly clear that the American people want an end to outdated cannabis policy. Congresswoman Lee has been a leader in efforts to dismantle the racist legacy of the War on Drugs. 

"Until the day Congress sends you a marijuana reform bill to sign, you have a unique ability to lead on criminal justice reform and provide immediate relief to thousands of Americans. As a presidential candidate, you promised to decriminalize marijuana, free people incarcerated for marijuana offenses, and expunge criminal records (“completely zeroed out”). We applaud your Administration for working to “correct our country’s failed approach to marijuana,” and, among other things, we commend your general pardon for previous federal offenses of simple marijuana possession, attempted simple possession, and marijuana use." the Representatives wrote. "Unfortunately, none of the previous pardons released a single person from federal prison for marijuana offenses. Federal courts sentence only a couple hundred simple marijuana possession cases each year,  and no one sentenced for simple possession is in federal prison.  The general pardon also failed to provide much relief to those haunted by criminal records – the bulk of federal marijuana cases involve felony offenses, which, unlike the misdemeanors you pardoned, impose serious civil disabilities (e.g., disenfranchisement) and crippling collateral consequences (e.g., barriers to employment, housing, and education)."

They continued, "It is inconsistent for the federal government to keep punishing individuals for violating a ban that it does not actually support and that an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose on a bipartisan basis...We ask that you commute the prison sentences of all individuals who are incarcerated for federal marijuana offenses. We also call upon you to pardon such offenses for people who already live peacefully in free society and to support federal legislation to expunge marijuana offenses."

The letter was also signed by Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Hank Johnson, Dan Goldman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Katie Porter, Rashida Tlaib, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Jamaal Bowman, Melanie Stansbury, Delia C. Ramirez, Stacy Plaskett, Nydia Velazquez, Robert Garcia, Jim McGovern, Cori Bush, Alma Adams, Raul Grijalva, Mark Pocan, Nikema Williams, Becca Balint, Chuy Garcia, Danny Davis, Shri Thanedar, Maxwell Frost, David Trone, Joaquin Castro, Ro Khanna, Sydney Kamlager-Dove, Pramila Jayapal, Bobby Scott, and Greg Casar.

This letter was endorsed by NORML and The Drug Policy Alliance.

To read the full letter, click HERE.