President Joe Biden says that issuing mass pardons for federal marijuana possession offenses is one of the top things he’s done to improve the lives of Black Americans since taking office. However, he appears to be to overstating the practical impact of his action.
In a radio interview on The Rickey Smiley Morning Show on Tuesday, the host pressed Biden on what he’s done help the Black community at this point, nearly two years into his term. The president quickly responded by citing the cannabis pardon proclamation he issued last month.
“Well, I hope I’ve improved the lives of African Americans like I said I would do,” he said. “For example, too many African Americans were denied everything from Pell Grants, student loans, housing, et cetera, because they were arrested for possession of marijuana—many too many. Whites as well.”
“So anybody who was ever arrested just for the possession of marijuana, their record is expunged,” he said. “They don’t have to list it anymore, and it’s going to free up a lot of opportunities.”
While a presidential pardon represents formal forgiveness for the covered offense—in this case, simple possession of marijuana—it’s not the same thing as an expungement where the crime is wiped from a person’s record, contrary to Biden’s claim in the radio interview.
A Congressional Research Service (CRS) report published in 2016 discusses conflicting…