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U.S. Sentencing Commission Estimates That 6,577 People Could Receive Pardons

Joe Biden, President of the United States announced that on October 6, he would pardon all those in America with marijuana convictions. According to the official White House press release, this means the pardon covers “…all current United States citizens and lawful permanent residents who committed the offense of simple possession of marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act…”

The statement also made it clear that only “simple” convictions would be pardoned. “My intent by 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 48–904.01(d)(1), and not any other offenses related to marijuana or other controlled substances,” Biden said.

There have been no announcements since the announcement about how many people will be pardoned or the names of those who were. The U.S. provided some estimates. The U.S. Sentenncing Commission gives insight as to how many individuals could be eligible for a pardon.

The U.S. Constitution was established in 1984. Sentencing Commission was created “to reduce sentencing disparities and promote transparency and proportionality in sentencing.” As an independent agency, its purpose is to collect and analyze data in regard to information related to federal sentences, and creates guidelines for crime policy in multiple branches of government.

In a report published on Oct. 13, the commission shows a chart featuring “The number of federal offenders convicted only of 21 U.S.C. § 844 Involving Marijuana” which covers the range of years between 1992-2021. A breakdown of the U.S. citizen offenders for each year is provided, totalling 6,577. According to the report, no offenders were in Federal Bureau of Prisons as of January 29, 2022.

All of the offenders with at least one count each of simple possession, as defined by 21 U.S.C. 844) 78.5% were male and 21.6% female. In regards to race, 41.3% were White, 31.8% “Hispanic,” 23.6% Black, and 3.3% Other.

Another chart shows that offenders with convictions “Involving Marijuana and Other Drugs” includes a total of 415 people within the same time frame, and an additional chart shows 555 offenders “Involving only marijuana who also have other convictions.”

A breakdown of each Court of Appeals Circuit and its respective jurisdiction shows that the highest percent of regional offenders came from “Virginia East” at 9.7% (covering courts in Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia), “Texas West” at 8.8% (covering courts in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas), “Arizona” at 16.7% and “California South” at 15% (both of which are included in United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which includes courts in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington State). The other percentages for each district range between 0.1% and 4.3%.

Numerous states already have programs in place to help residents get rid of, vacate, or seal cannabis convictions. These programs have helped more than 2 million people clean their records, according to Reuters.

The American Medical Association passed a resolution allowing for the expungement of cannabis in June. In August, there were also expungement clinics in Buffalo. In September, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee introduced two pieces legislation that could provide relief for people with cannabis convictions. 

Biden’s initial pardon announcement urged state governors to issue pardons as well. Indiana Governor. Eric Holcomb declared that he will not pardon anyone who has been convicted of cannabis offenses. Instead, he recommended that individuals seeking exoneration use the state programs in place.