Joe Biden recently announced a pardon for those convicted of cannabis possession charges on a federal level—but many have been left out in the cold, including immigrants.
Over 100 groups are pushing Biden to open the pardon to include them, but is it enough?
Joe Biden has pardoned around 6500 individuals who were convicted of marijuana possession. This pardon does not apply to those convicted of trafficking, growing, or selling marijuana. The amnesty only applies to those charged with federal possession, not state possession. It also does not apply to noncitizens.
The Cannabis Campaign
Biden and the Democrats are using the lackluster pardon to campaign this election season. This is typical Democrat BS: they’re using a hot-button topic to get voters and then will turn around and do nothing despite holding power.
Biden’s pardon, for example, came two years into his presidency, and while 6500 people are getting pardons, that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to all of those who could have theoretically been pardoned. According to the ACLU, cannabis arrests now account for over half of all drug arrests in the United States. Of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests during the first decade of the 2000s, 88% were for simply having marijuana—which means 72 million people that could have theoretically been pardoned by Biden (not counting anyone else who was arrested but not convicted).
Biden did pardon those arrested in D.C. but notably didn’t do anything to eliminate a controversial anti-cannabis congressional budget rider either. This is a weak campaigning move, and activist organizations have had enough.
Activists Taking Action
The National Immigration Project (NIPNLG) and National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) have both signed a letter to Joe Biden, asking him to expand his pardon of cannabis convictions to include all immigrants.
The letter, which was also signed by other prominent organizations like the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Drug Policy Alliance, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Immigration Law Center, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and NORML, among others, says that the organizations believe that Biden’s action was a necessary first step towards combatting the war on drugs.
However, they say that although it is a good step towards ending mass incarceration for cannabis offenses for noncitizens living in America today—particularly Black and Brown Americans—the pardon does not go far enough.
They ask that Biden expand the nature of the pardon to protect immigrants of all statuses, including protections against potential negative immigration consequences due to cannabis convictions.
The letter states that excluding people from criminal reform policies does little to remedy the over-policing and mass incarceration of minorities in America. The signatories of the letter urge the White House to remedy injustice for everyone, especially immigrant communities.
The Scope Of The Pardon
When Joe Biden announced his plan to pardon those with federal cannabis convictions, he clearly stated that he would not pardon those with federal cannabis sales convictions.
But what many people don’t know is that most of the individuals convicted of selling marijuana in the United States are immigrants, legal or illegal. In fact, a U.S. Sentencing Commission (USCC) report from 2016 reported that 92% of federal marijuana possession cases in Fiscal Year 2013 occurred at the Southern border, and only 6% of those arrested were citizens.
Biden hasn’t directly spoken on the omission of immigrants, but it doesn’t seem like anything will change.
We need to recognize that this case is not an isolated incident. Rather, it is a symptom of the larger problem of our national government becoming less and less responsive to its citizens.
For us to move forward as a nation, we need to develop individual state-level pardon programs so that people can get back on their feet without waiting for years.
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