On October 6, 2022, President Biden announced that he will issue pardons for all prior federal simple marijuana possession offenses, clearing these charges from the criminal records of over 6,500 people convicted of the offense from 1991 to 2021.
President Biden’s pardon is a moderate step towards federal legalization, as cannabis remains a Schedule I drug, along with the likes of heroin and LSD, under the Controlled Substances Act. However, the President has called on the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Attorney General to initiate the process of reviewing how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.
While no individuals are currently incarcerated in federal prison for simple possession of marijuana, the Presidential pardon will help to relieve some of the collateral consequences, such as the denial of housing, employment, and educational opportunities, that come with a criminal conviction.
Individuals convicted of simple possession of marijuana under federal law will be able to obtain a pardon certificate from the Justice Department, which can be used when applying for jobs, housing, federal financial aid for college, and other opportunities that may have been hindered by the criminal conviction.
It is important to note that the federal pardons will not happen automatically. The Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney will be responsible for administering President Biden’s proclamation and plans to implement a formal process and application to issue certificates of pardon to those eligible within the coming days.
The rescheduling of marijuana on the federal level would have a significant and immediate impact, as it would: (i) immediately reduce the amount of taxes payable by cannabis enterprises substantially (perhaps 50% of their current taxes); (ii) allow banks and financial institutions to lend freely to cannabis establishments; (iii) resulting in lower interest rates; and (iv) allow medical researchers easier access to study cannabis. It would also protect medical cannabis patients against discrimination by employers by reducing the threat of putting federal funding in jeopardy. Lastly, It would also minimize the risk to such patients of having their college grants and funding rescinded for such usage.
If you have questions regarding the content of this alert or about obtaining a pardon certificate from the Justice Department, please contact David C. Holland, Partner of the Cannabis and White Collar Defense groups at firstname.lastname@example.org, or any another member of the firm’s Cannabis team.
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