How will Biden’s cannabis pardon affect California?
On Friday, President Biden issued a blank pardon for Americans federally convicted of possessing small amounts of cannabis, urged governors to do likewise on state offenses and called for a review on whether cannabis should be listed as a less serious drug from its current Schedule I listing.
As a major cannabis producer, California is poised to become one of the states most impacted by Biden’s cannabis move on a federal level.
“It’s a historic moment,” said California Cannabis Chamber of Commerce Chair Hirsh Jain in an interview with KQED where he discussed the implications that Biden’s federal cannabis pardon would have on California. “It’s the president using his bully pulpit … using the moral authority of the presidency to signal a new direction in the war on drugs.”
Despite the significance of the pardon coming from Joe Biden, “given that he was involved with a lot of the tough-on-crime policies that led to incarceration,” Jain points out that it would only affect about 10,000 people who are federally convicted of simple cannabis possession. He says the real genius of the move is that it will require governors across the country to take a position on pardons, because most of the offenses are at a state level.
“What I think is fascinating is in the last 24 hours, governors across the country have really weighed in. You’re seeing calls in a lot of states for governors to issue a lot of pardons. I think what is really smart about this move is (that) on a popular issue that Americans broadly support, a lot of governors are being forced to take a position on this issue, knowing (it) is broadly popular — in California in particular.”
California is ahead of many other states in its effort to expunge records and pardon minor cannabis crimes, but Jain says there’s still a lot of work to do and adds that Biden’s pardon could give Governor Newsom more of a mandate to pursue progressive criminal justice policies.
Published: October 10, 2022
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