Biden pardons certain marijuana offenses, grants clemency to 11 non-violent drug offenders

President Joe Biden meets with staff in the Oval Office, Tuesday, September 27, 2022. -- (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden announced Friday he was granting clemency to nearly a dozen people who have been serving long prison sentences for non-violent drug offenses.

The president also announced he was signing a proclamation to pardon certain marijuana offenses, building on action he took back in 2022 to pardon thousands of Americans who had been convicted of simple marijuana possession.

"America was founded on the principle of equal justice under law," Biden said in a statement. "Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect this core value that makes our communities safer and stronger. That is why today I am announcing additional steps I am taking to make the promise of equal justice a reality."

Of the 11 people who will have their sentences commuted, some were convicted to decades or even life in prison for crack cocaine-related offenses.

"All of them would have been eligible to receive significantly lower sentences if they were charged with the same offense today," Biden said in a statement.

According to a White House official, some individuals received sentences twice as long as they would likely receive now.

Additionally, Biden will issue a proclamation to pardon additional marijuana offenses related to simple possession and use of the drug under federal and Washington, D.C., law.

"Criminal records for marijuana use and possession have imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities," Biden said. "Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It's time that we right these wrongs."

He also urged state officials to take similar action.

"Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the use or possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either. That's why I continue to urge Governors to do the same with regard to state offenses and applaud those who have since taken action," Biden said.

ABC News' Alexandra Hutzler contributed to this report.

Friday, December 22, 2023 at 9:53AM by Lauren Peller, ABC News Permalink