Warren presses Biden on pardons for nonviolent cannabis convictions

Warren presses Biden on pardons for nonviolent cannabis convictions
© Greg Nash

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHillicon Valley — Presented by Connected Commerce Council — Incident reporting language left out of package Exporting gas means higher monthly energy bills for American families Senators turn up the heat on Amazon, data brokers during hearing MORE (Mass.) and two other Democratic senators sent a letter on Tuesday to President BidenJoe BidenHouse passes 8B defense policy bill House approves bill to ease passage of debt limit hike Senate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale MORE pressing him to make good on campaign promises and pardon federal nonviolent cannabis convictions. 

“After over a century of failed and racist cannabis policies, we write to urge a change of course: we request that you use your executive authority to pardon all individuals convicted of non-violent cannabis offenses, whether formerly or currently incarcerated,” Warren said in the letter co-signed by Sens. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeySenators seek to curb counterfeit toys and goods sold online Senate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Pledged money not going to Indigenous causes MORE (D-Mass.) and Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyDemocrats seek to avoid internal disputes over Russia and China Senate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo Lawmakers call on Olympic committee to press China on human rights abuses MORE (D-Ore.).

Democrats have been pushing Biden since the beginning of his presidency to reform cannabis laws, which have disproportionately affected communities of color.

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The letter cites the Democratic primary debate in November 2019, during which Biden laid out his views on marijuana reform.

"Number one, I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period," Biden said at the time. "And I think everyone — anyone who has a record should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out."

The senators wrote that marijuana laws must be overhauled but that the president can also act immediately on his own. 

"You can and should issue a blanket pardon for all non-violent federal cannabis offenses, fulfilling your promises to the American people and transforming the lives of tens of thousands Americans," they wrote. 

Most importantly, such a pardon—combined with your leadership on an accessible expungement process to formally clear the criminal records of those affected—would mark the beginning of a reversal of decades of ineffective and discriminatory cannabis policies, allowing Americans to return to their communities, find housing and jobs, and rebuild their lives without the burdens of an unjustly imposed criminal record,” the senators added in the letter.

Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBuild Back Better Is bad for the states  Dole to lie in state in Capitol Rotunda Biden points to drug prices in call for Senate social spending vote MORE (D-N.Y.), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenators turn up the heat on Amazon, data brokers during hearing Minimum tax proposal drives wedge between corporate interests Senate parliamentarian looms over White House spending bill MORE (D-Ore.) and Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerMaternal and child health legislation must be prioritized now Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season MORE (D-N.J.) introduced a bill in the Senate in July in a push to legalize marijuana at the federal level. 

“There is an urgency to this because there are people all over our country seeing their lives destroyed. They’re hurt,” Booker said at the time.

Twenty-seven states have already decriminalized possession of some amounts of marijuana, with 36 states legalizing it for medicinal purposes.