Biden Cheers Oregon Governor As She Pardons Marijuana Convictions

Following the lead of President Joe Biden, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has granted thousands of pardons to people convicted in the past on cannabis charges. The move is something that Biden had hoped the nation’s governors would make after he decided to pardon those with past convictions on federal marijuana charges.

Because Biden’s pardon only impacts a few thousand people, he has urged the nation’s governors to take the same action because they have the chance to impact many more people. In Oregon alone, Brown’s action will remove past records for 47,144 people convicted of possession of small amounts of cannabis.

“Oregonians should never face housing insecurity, employment barriers, and educational obstacles as a result of doing something that is now completely legal, and has been for years,” Brown said. She added that drug arrests, prosecutions and convictions have disproportionately impacted people of color.

Biden Responds to Brown’s Action

Biden immediately responded to Brown’s actions, Tweeting that she had made Oregon the latest state to pardon simple marijuana possession offenses. “It’s time to right our failed approach to marijuana. I urge states to follow Oregon’s example,” Biden wrote.

Rahul Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, also praised Brown. He said that Biden has made it a priority to address inequities in U.S. drug policy. “Glad to see Oregon also take this step that will improve lives,” he wrote.

Governors in Colorado, Nevada, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Washington have also taken action to pardon those convicted in the past on simple marijuana possession charges. In most states, eligible people must petition the state to receive the pardon.

Fine and Fees Also Forgiven

As part of her actions, Brown also is forgiving more than $14 million in fines and fees from those convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana in the past. In Oregon, the pardons apply to those who possessed one ounce (28 grams) or less of marijuana when the person was 21 or older and where it was the only charge and there were no victims.

The Oregon Judicial Department also will seal all court records related to the pardoned offenses.

Oregon became one of the first states to legalize marijuana in 2014. Other early legalization states, including Colorado and Washington, have gone back to pardon those convicted of simple marijuana possession in the past.

Maryland, one of the latest states to legalize recreational cannabis, took care of the issue with the voter referendum. As part of the legalization approved by voters, the state’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services must by July 1, 2024,  expunge all cases in which cannabis possession was the only charge in the case.

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