Last October, President Biden issued a proclamation granting clemency for all people charged or convicted of cannabis possession offenses under federal law and in Washington, DC. While the mass pardon was enacted immediately, there was no mechanism in place for eligible individuals to prove that they were covered by the proclamation. MPP and other advocates immediately called for certificates to be issued to help remove barriers to civil participation, employment, housing, and educational opportunities for those with prior convictions.
On March 3, the Department of Justice officially launched an application for receiving a certificate of pardon for federal convictions of simple marijuana possession on or before October 6, 2022. The application will enable between 6,500 and 20,000 Americans to apply for written proof that their federal convictions have been pardoned, according to the Office of the Pardon Attorney and the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
This positive development represents a small but notable step in the right direction for federal cannabis reform, with the president and federal government making a clear statement that simple cannabis possession is not an offense warranting a severe criminal penalty.
While it is encouraging at the federal level, it does not cover convictions for offenses other than simple possession, and state-level cannabis offenses are not eligible for relief through this pardon certificate process.