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Senators Urge Biden to Pardon All Non-violent Cannabis Offenses |

Decrying “over a century of failed and racist cannabis policies,” Elizabeth Warren and a pair of other Democratic senators are urging President Joe Biden to use his executive authority to “pardon all individuals convicted of nonviolent cannabis offenses, whether formerly or currently incarcerated.”

Warren, the Massachusetts’ senior senator made this request to Biden in a written letter on Tuesday. Warren’s fellow senator from the Bay State, Ed Markey, and Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley also signed the letter. 

“America’s cannabis policies have punished Black and Brown communities for too long. Beginning at the turn of the 20th century, states enacted anti-cannabis laws to specifically target Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans,” the three senators wrote. “By 1937, the battle against cannabis—buoyed by a high-profile campaign relying on racist tropes—had escalated to a federal ban. 

“In the 1970s, President Nixon launched the War on Drugs over the objections of his own advisors and experts, spawning mass incarceration policies with devastating effects on Black and Brown families. Today, despite legalization efforts across the country and roughly equal cannabis usage rates, Black Americans are still nearly four times as likely to be arrested for cannabis possession as white Americans.”

They also brought receipts to point out the countless polling data that shows record levels of support for marijuana legalization.

“These policies are increasingly out of step with the views of the American public. Nearly seven in 10 Americans believe that cannabis should be legalized,” the senators wrote. “Eighteen states, two territories and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use, all in the past decade.

“Twenty-seven states—ranging from New York to North Dakota—plus D.C. have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis,” they continued. “Thirty-six states, three territories and D.C. have allowed for the medical use of cannabis. And a number of tribal governments have legalized cannabis for various purposes.”

Biden, despite the overwhelming public support for reforming marijuana, has so far resisted legalization. Jen Psaki (White House Press Secretary) stated that in July, the president was opposed to lifting prohibitions on pot.

Biden said on the campaign trail that he was in favor of decriminalizing cannabis and expunging records.

Warren and her coworkers noted the campaign promise in Tuesday’s letter to Biden.

“Our country’s cannabis policies must be completely overhauled, but you have the power to act now: 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 of Americans,” they wrote. 

“As a candidate for President, you argued that, ‘We should decriminalize marijuana,’ and, ‘Everyone [with a marijuana record] should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out.’ The first and simplest step in the process is a blanket pardon. As previous presidents did, the Constitution gives you the power to grant broad pardons to Americans in order to address widespread injustice. 

“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.”

Senators urged President Biden immediately to fulfill the campaign pledge he made while on the campaign trail. “We urge you to act swiftly on behalf of the countless Americans punished by the country’s senseless cannabis laws,” they added. “Thank you for your attention to this important matter.”