Barely a few weeks after Senator Bernie Sanders mentioned in a podcast known as Kystall, Kyle and Friends, that the President has the executive right to enact cannabis policies, but chooses not to, the presidency has announced that the president will begin to grant clemency to nonviolent cannabis offenders in federal prisons.
Could it be that this statement was made to quell the rumors going around stating that the president made cannabis reforms policies on his campaign trail just to garner votes?
As we all know Joe Biden has never been a staunch supporter of cannabis reforms in the country. Not to mention that the president, during his terms as a senator decades ago, played a huge role in the harsh legislation we now have against cannabis users.
The Announcement made by the Presidency
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, announced that the federal government has been thinking of ways to use the president’s executive authority to grant pardons to inmates with charges related to non-violent drug arrests and convictions.
Psaki said this would begin around the midpoint of the president’s term in office.
This is the first time in this new administration that the White House will announce that steps are being taken to make progressive cannabis policies like this. There are so many ways to use the Presidential executive authority and it will please a lot of families to have their relatives pardoned from drug charges.
As expected, the press asked questions about the future of federal inmates who have been confined in their times since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. The Secretary replied to these questions and said that stringent measures are being taken to ensure that in no time these inmates would be able to return to their cells to complete their sentences.
Psaki also assured the public that the Biden administration is actively working to give Americans a chance at having better futures. The best way to secure the future of America is by reforming the justice system. Reformed policies will strengthen individual families across the country and also cause a significant boost to the economy.
She also added that the president is aware of the high number of colored people who have been incarcerated on drug charges across the county. The president also acknowledged the unfair rate of incarceration of these disadvantaged communities. To this effect, the president is committed to looking for the best avenues to reduce incarceration, as well as help people, restart their lives after serving their prison sentences.
By exercising his clemency powers, Biden will be touching the lives of many families, even more so if the administration is successful in providing relief to these nonviolent drug offenders and their communities.
In all these the president has not renounced his stance against cannabis reform policies.
When Biden served as senator, he supported extremely harsh laws that rigged the system against the colored communities. He contributed extremely to the high incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders through the punitive drug laws he helped get approved.
His inaction to clear a mess that is large of his creation is disappointing to several advocates of cannabis reforms; The president has not fulfilled any of his campaign promises regarding marijuana decriminalization.
Sometime in April this year, Psaki stated that the White House will begin a process for modest reforms which will reclassify marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. However, this was said in reply to questions about the president’s promise to grant clemency to individuals with non-violent drug charges. Activists and other marijuana advocates have since come out to state that her claim cannot accomplish the clemency promise.
Rescheduling cannabis in a subtle way will not enable pardons to be granted in any form. If marijuana is moved from Schedule I to Schedule II, convicted inmates will at best be issued slightly reduced penalties.
For mass clemency to be facilitated if the president does not change his stance, the legislature has to rise to the occasion by approving cannabis reform policies to decriminalize marijuana nationwide.
What To Expect At This Period
Secretary Psaki explained that currently, plans are still being revised and nothing concrete has been decided on. The public is expected to remain calm as the administration has still not decided which avenue to settle on to provide relief for the affected individuals.
With the president’s clemency powers, he can help expunge the records of non-violent cannabis offenders. Doing this would give these individuals the right footing to be able to participate in society once again, they would be able to get well-paying jobs and their voting rights would be restored. The President could also reduce the sentence of, or release incarcerated nonviolent cannabis offenders across federal prisons nationwide.
Reports have it that the President already has a team in place making silent recommendations.
Clemency powers exercised by previous administrations
President Obama and President Trump exercised their executive powers in several ways. They granted pardon to several non-violent drug offenders.
Previous administrations exercised their clemency powers very late during their terms, hence very limited progress was made.
The Trump administration was criticized for its approach to granting clemency to inmates. During his tenure, Trump disregarded the justice department and consulted with allies and friends instead. Most of the pardons granted by Trump were influenced by celebrities and wealthy people with connections.
The Obama administration issued over 1,900 clemency grants, selection of candidates was mostly carried out by the Justice Department. The department made recommendations based on low-level and non-violent convictions. The Biden Administration seeks to follow the approach used by Obama’s team.
The president may not begin to exercise his clemency powers until the third year of his tenure.
It is good to know that Biden is planning to make do on his campaign promises by developing a clemency process to address racial inequality in the justice system with respect to cannabis drug offenders.
Regardless of this, marijuana advocates expect the president to act quickly.