Last week, President Biden issued this proclamation effectively pardoning “all current United States citizens and lawful permanent residents who committed the offense of simple possession of marijuana” in violation of federal law, including the laws of Washington, DC. It seems that no one will be released from prison as a result, as no one is in federal prison solely for marijuana possession, and marijuana possession has been permitted under DC law since 2014. However, the US Sentencing Commission’s analysis reveals that over 6,500 US citizens, and over 1,000 legal permanent residents, will have previous federal convictions wiped away under the pardon proclamation. I could not find a similar analysis of the effect of the pardon on DC convictions.
Of course, the vast majority of convictions for marijuana possession take place in state court. Here in North Carolina, there were almost 2,000 convictions for simple possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance last year alone. According to WCNC, Governor Cooper supports President Biden’s issuance of the blanket pardon. The Governor has said that “simple possession of small amounts of marijuana should not be a crime” and that he has “asked [his] lawyers to examine North Carolina law regarding simple possession of marijuana convictions and pardons to determine if there is action we can and should take.” If the Governor does take any action, we will of course cover it here. Read on for more news.