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October 07, 2022

Who qualifies for the Biden administration's federal marijuana pardon?

The president announced he would pardon all federal offenses of simple possession

President Joe Biden took another step towards decriminalizing marijuana on Thursday, announcing pardons for all federal-level offenders charged with simple possession.

The president tweeted that for too long, the country has upended too many lives over a substance that is no longer illegal in most states.

His pardon will help relieve offenders of the limitations of a conviction on a person's life.

According to the White House press, over 6,500 people were federally convicted of simple possession of marijuana from 1992-2021, which means knowingly possessing an illegal substance.

A federal conviction means that the crime violates United States laws and is prosecuted by a federal judge.

Marijuana possession is considered a Class A misdemeanor and can carry a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail on the first violation. Subsequent possession charges are felonies and come with jail time.

Who is eligible for a federal pardon?

The most important thing to remember is that President Biden only pardoned offenders with federal convictions; if your crime was state-level, you are not eligible for a pardon.

Applicants must also only have simple possession charges. There is no pardon for any other convictions, whether associated or not.

"My intent of this proclamation is to pardon only the offense of simple possession of marijuana in violation of federal law or in violation of D.C. code and not any other offenses related to marijuana or other controlled substances," Biden said.

How do you apply for Biden's federal pardon?

According to Biden, an application will be created by the Attorney General, Merrick Garland with the help of Pardon Attorney Elizabeth Oyer, that establishes a checklist of requirements that need to be met to be considered for a pardon and pardon certificate; in turn, Garland will also review all applications.

Those interested in applying for a pardon are told to continue to check the office of Oyer for updates on the application.

What does the federal pardon do?

There are a lot of misconceptions about someone being pardoned for a criminal conviction. A pardon does not absolve wrongdoing but instead serves as a means of forgiveness for any crime and allows for the reinstatement of civil liberties that are taken away with federal convictions, including restoring a person's right to vote, the opportunity to run for public office, serve on a jury, and in some cases, the right to bear arms.

Pardons do not expunge criminal records.

While Biden announced the pardon of federal offenses related to simple marijuana possession, Gov. Tom Wolf is working to pardon state offenders. In September, Wolf announced the PA Marijuana Pardon Project, an effort to pardon non-violent state-level marijuana-related offenses in Pennsylvania. The pardon will focus on simple possession charges and charges related to a small amount of personal use.

"I have repeatedly called on our-Republican-led General Assembly to support the legalization of adult-use marijuana, but they've yet to meet this call for action from myself and Pennsylvania," Wolf said.

From Sept.1-30, Pennsylvanians could apply for a pardon for marijuana convictions only if the charges were filed in Pennsylvania. This project provided an accelerated opportunity for forgiveness for an offense. 

Starting on Oct. 13, a review board will begin filtering through applications to decide if a person meets the criteria to come before a review board. From Dec. 13-16, the Board of Pardons will vote on the decision to approve individual cases. After that, Wolf will issue pardons.

State pardons do not expunge criminal records, but it does make an offender eligible to petition for expungement.

Those who missed the deadline to apply for this expedited process or are ineligible because of other criminal convictions on their record can still apply for clemency.

Since taking office as governor, Wolf has granted 326 pardons for non-violent marijuana offenses.