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Biden to pardon marijuana offenses, grant clemency to 11 drug offenders

President Biden is commuting the sentences of 11 nonviolent drug offenders Friday, part of his continued efforts to use his clemency powers to rectify what he has said are unjustified disparities in drug sentencing, the White House announced Friday.

Biden will grant clemency to 11 people who are serving “disproportionately long sentences” for nonviolent drug offenses, all of whom would have been eligible to receive significantly lower sentences if charged with the same offense today, the White House said.

Some were sentenced to decades in prison, including mandatory life sentences. Others, with crack cocaine convictions, would not be serving the same sentences if they were convicted of a comparable powder cocaine offense — a sentencing discrepancy that is not supported by science and that disproportionately affects Black communities, a White House official said.

“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.”

Biden also issued a proclamation that will pardon additional marijuana offenses, including for use and possession on certain federal lands. The action follows his proclamation last year pardoning simple possession of marijuana under federal and District of Columbia 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.”

Biden urged governors to do the same with regard to state offenses.

“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,” Biden said.

Biden said he has exercised his clemency power more than any recent predecessor has at this point in their presidency, granting nine individual pardons and more than 100 commutations. His pardoning last October of people convicted of marijuana possession under federal law affected thousands.

Former president Donald Trump granted 237 acts of clemency, according to the Pew Research Center, while former president Barack Obama granted 1,927 acts of clemency, the majority of them during his second term in office. Former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush granted 200, 459 and 77 acts of clemency, respectively, according to the Pew data.

In April, during what Biden proclaimed as “Second Chance Month,” he granted clemency to 31 nonviolent drug offenders and rolled out an initiative to expand access to housing, jobs and other assistance for those previously incarcerated.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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