WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden pardoned thousands of people who were convicted of use and simple possession of marijuana on federal lands and in the District of Columbia, the White House said Friday, in his latest round of executive clemency that the administration says is meant to rectify racial disparities in the justice system.
The move applies to various federal lands including national parks, wildlife refuges and even the CIA. It covers only U.S. citizens and does not include charges associated with distributing marijuana or driving while using it. For possession, first-time offenders typically serve a year in jail and receive a fine of $1,000.
The categorical pardon builds on a similar round issued just before the 2022 midterm elections that pardoned thousands convicted of simple possession on federal lands. Friday’s action broadens the criminal offenses covered by the pardon. Biden is also granting clemency to 11 people serving what the White House called “disproportionately long” sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.
An official said some people with crack cocaine convictions will have their sentences commuted, noting that powder cocaine offenses tend to receive shorter punishments. The sentencing disparity has disproportionately affected Black Americans, the official noted.
Biden, in a statement, said his actions would help make the “promise of equal justice a reality.”