Biden's Pardon For Cannabis Offenders: 27 Reactions From Politicians, Industry Executives And Advocacy Orgs

President Joe Biden announced on Thursday that he will pardon all prior federal offenses for simple marijuana possession, sending cannabis stocks soaring.

"No one should be in jail just for using marijuana," Biden said.

The pardons will also apply to anyone in Washington DC convicted of simple possession of marijuana, a senior administration official told reporters.

More than 6,500 individuals with prior convictions for simple weed possession will be impacted by the pardons and thousands more will be pardoned under D.C. law. 

Here’s how America reacted, from politicians and advocates to cannabis industry executives.


  1. Politicians And Advocacy Organizations
    1. Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus
    2. Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance
    3. NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri
    4. US Cannabis Council (USCC) CEO, Khadijah Tribble
    5. Toi Hutchinson, President and CEO of the Marijuana Policy Project
    6. Aaron Smith, Co-founder and CEO of the National Cannabis Industry Association
    7. Gia Morón, President of Women Grow
    8. Brady Cobb, cannabis lobbyist, lawyer and entrepreneur
    9. Jason Ortiz, Executive Director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy
    10. Sarah Gersten, Executive Director of the Last Prisoner Project
    11. Americans for Prosperity (AFP) Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Brent Gardner
  2. Cannabis Industry Executives
    1. Nancy Whiteman, CEO of Wana Brands
    2. Joe Caltabiano, co-founder of Cresco Labs CRLBF
    3. Weedmaps MAPS CEO, Chris Beals
    4. Chris Walsh, CEO of MJBiz and MJBizCon
    5. Ayr Wellness AYRWF Head of Corporate Social Responsibility Khari Edwards
    6. NorCal Co-founder and CEO Jigar Patel
    7. Troy Datcher, CEO of The Parent Company GRAMF
    8. Morgan Paxhia, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Poseidon Investment Management
    9. George Mancheril, CEO & Co-Founder of Bespoke Financial
    10. Bryan Murray, Executive Vice President of Government Relations at Acreage Holdings ACRHF
    11. John McLeod, Co-Founder & Head of New Markets at Cloud Cannabis
    12. Kassia Graham, Director of Community & Strategy at Cannaclusive
    13. Mason Tvert, partner at VS Strategies, a national cannabis policy and public affairs firm
    14. Leonard Tannenbaum, AFC Gamma AFCG Chief Executive Officer
    15. Joseph Dowling, CEO of CV Sciences CVSI
    16. Dr. Chanda Macias, CEO Ilera Holistic Healthcare

Politicians And Advocacy Organizations

Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Founder and Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus

Today, President Biden took an important step in the fight to end the federal government’s failed and discriminatory prohibition of cannabis. No president has stepped forward to pardon low-level marijuana offenders at this scale before. At a time when 99% of Americans live in a state where some form of cannabis use is legal, it is unthinkable that anyone—especially predominantly Black, Latinx, and Indigenous Americans—are imprisoned for simple, nonviolent cannabis possession. 

This is a critical important step forward for racial justice in the failed war on drugs that too often targeted people of color, especially Black and Latino men. While this order is welcome and long overdue, it is just the first step of many that this Administration should take. 

We have pending legislation that deals with medical marijuana research and the ability for cannabis businesses to access banking services—both of which have gained support in the House and Senate. The President should embrace and celebrate. It is critical that we put the full force of the federal government behind them. 

There was a time when this was controversial. Yet for several years, the federal government has been left behind by people and states who did not wait. Not only does more than two-thirds of the public support full legalization, even half of American Republicans are also ready to end this chapter of the failed war on drugs. We welcome this action and hope it is the first of several noncontroversial critical steps to promote justice, equity, and rational policy.

Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance

We are thrilled to see President Biden holding true to his commitment to pardon every person with simple marijuana charges at the federal level, including people in D.C. And we are further encouraged by his efforts to get Governors to take similar actions at the state level. This is incredibly long overdue. There is no reason that people should be saddled with a criminal record—preventing them from obtaining employment, housing, and countless other opportunities—for something that is already legal in 19 states and D.C. and decriminalized in 31 states.

 We, however, hope that the Biden Administration will go further and fully deschedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), rather than initiate a process that could lead to rescheduling. Keeping marijuana on the federal drug schedule will mean people will continue to face criminal charges for marijuana. It also means that research will continue to be inhibited and state-level markets will be at odds with federal law. We urge the President to support the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, introduced in the Senate earlier this year, which would fully remove marijuana from the CSA, provide expungement and resentencing for past marijuana convictions beyond simple possession, and comprehensively repair the harms of marijuana criminalization.

NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri

Many of the efforts taken and proposed by the President today are long overdue. For nearly two years, NORML has called upon the Administration to fulfill the President’s campaign promise to provide relief to those stigmatized with a low-level cannabis conviction. We are pleased that today President Biden is following through on this pledge and that he is also encouraging governors to take similar steps to ensure that the tens of millions of Americans with state-level convictions for past marijuana crimes can finally move forward with their lives. Since 1965, nearly 29 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana-related violations — for activities that the majority of voters no longer believe ought to be a crime.

Moving forward, the Administration must work collaboratively with Congressional leadership to repeal America’s failed marijuana criminalization laws. Nearly half of voters now agree that legalizing marijuana ought to be a priority of Congress, and such action can only be taken by descheduling cannabis and repealing it from the US Controlled Substances Act — thereby regulating it in a manner similar to alcohol. Congress should be inspired by the Administration.

US Cannabis Council (USCC) CEO, Khadijah Tribble

President Biden is right: No one should be in jail just for using or possessing cannabis. This executive action will positively impact countless Americans who have been saddled with criminal histories and the unjust suffering and consequences of cannabis prohibition. This is a particularly cathartic moment for Black and brown communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the criminalization of cannabis. 

We commend the President for making good on his campaign promise to grant pardons to non-violent cannabis offenders. This announcement comes on the heels of the Biden administration appointing the first advisor on cannabis research and regulation at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and further reinforces the fact that it’s just a question of when — not if — cannabis is decriminalized altogether.

As the nation reckons with the wrongs of the past, it’s also time to look to the future. The Senate should pass the SAFE Banking Act, to help ensure that the communities most impacted by cannabis prohibition can safely and gainfully participate in the burgeoning cannabis industry.

Toi Hutchinson, President and CEO of the Marijuana Policy Project

MPP is grateful for the action President Biden has taken today, which is a historic step forward towards reducing the lasting harm from the failed war on cannabis that has disproportionately impacted Black and Brown people and economically challenged communities across the country. Not only will thousands of lives be improved by removing this burden, but it also sends a powerful message to states that it is time to end prohibition and give people the tools they need to live full productive lives without the shackles of the criminal justice system. 

This news will generate continued momentum in the five states where cannabis is on the ballot in November and should our advocates on the ground be successful, half of all states in our nation will have legalized cannabis.

Aaron Smith, Co-founder and CEO of the National Cannabis Industry Association

We commend this important and necessary step to begin the process of repairing the harms of prohibition and look forward to working with Congress and the administration to develop policies that would ultimately solve the underlying problems in our outdated cannabis policies. It’s imperative that we finally harmonize state and federal laws so that Main Street cannabis businesses can supplant underground markets and nobody is ever again put behind bars for a nonviolent marijuana crime. Removing cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act is the only way to achieve those goals.

Gia Morón, President of Women Grow

Although this is long overdue for the many lives who have paid a hefty price, we are encouraged by President Biden’s announcement to pardon federal offenses for simple marijuana possession and believe he is moving in the right direction toward Federal legalization.  We applaud the President for calling on state leadership to follow the order of pardons and asking the Attorney General to initiate the process to review descheduling under federal law. Our fight is not over, but we are grateful to see this turn. Let’s keep pushing to help restore lives, justice, and reform.

Brady Cobb, cannabis lobbyist, lawyer and entrepreneur

I would like to thank and commend President Biden for following through on his campaign pledge to pardon prior federal offenses for marijuana possession. This is a landmark moment for everyone harmed by the unjust policies and tactics of the War on Drugs. Pardoning past prisoners and federal decriminalization are the first steps, but our work is just beginning in terms of achieving full cannabis legalization and seeing the plant removed as schedule 1 substance. I would also like to thank The Drug Policy Alliance, Weldon Angelos, Professor Erik Luna, Former Deputy Attorney General James Cole and everyone else fighting for cannabis and the victims of cannabis prohibition.

Jason Ortiz, Executive Director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy

We are thrilled that a campaign which united voters across generational lines with students leading the charge successfully pressured the President to make bold progress on criminal justice reforms. This is a crystal clear example of direct action working, and why we are excited for our mass action on October 24th to make sure President Biden continues this progress and releases federal cannabis prisoners. This is a great first step, but we will not stop until all of our cannabis prisoners are returned to their families.

Sarah Gersten, Executive Director of the Last Prisoner Project

We are thrilled that President Biden has taken this initial action to pardon thousands of individuals suffering the collateral consequences of a cannabis conviction. While we will continue to call on his administration to release those still incarcerated in federal prison for cannabis offenses other than simple possession, these grants are an important first step in acknowledging the need to repair the harms of prohibition. We look forward to continuing to work with the Biden administration on broader clemency grants, the release of every federal cannabis prisoner, and the federal legalization of cannabis.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Brent Gardner

The Biden Administration’s move to pardon thousands of individuals with records for simple cannabis possession is a welcome first step in addressing the overcriminalization of cannabis. Too many Americans have had their lives upended for simply possessing cannabis.

However, more needs to be done. We should prioritize criminal justice system resources on protecting life, liberty, and property, not incarcerating people who are not a threat to public safety.

Congress must act to end prohibition. Such legislation has already been introduced in the shape of Rep. Nancy Mace’s (R-SC) States Reform Act, which would de-schedule cannabis at the federal level and allow law enforcement to shift its focus to preventing violent crime.

We are hopeful that the president’s actions today represent an embrace of broader reforms, and encourage him to support congressional action on Rep. Mace’s legislation.

Cannabis Industry Executives

Nancy Whiteman, CEO of Wana Brands

It is incredible news to hear that President Biden is calling for the pardons of prisoners convicted and held on simple federal marijuana possession charges, a move that will impact over 6,500 individuals. This is an important step in full decriminalization and a meaningful way to begin to address the racial disparities around the arrests and convictions of BIPOC people. This is positive news indeed, and we hope momentum is swift to release the people held for an activity that millions of Americans currently have the right to enjoy freely.

Joe Caltabiano, co-founder of Cresco Labs CRLBF

It’s a relief to see positive movement from the Biden White House for mass marijuana pardons and a call to review cannabis scheduling. The federal government’s lack of clear guidance on scheduling and the enforcement of 280E has put the cannabis industry in a death spiral. In addition to pardoning prisoners who are locked up for an activity that the majority of Americans now have access to, we as an industry desperately need one simple bill passed: SAFE Banking. If Congress cannot pass SAFE banking by Dec. 31, the government is effectively strangling the industry. You don’t have to dig deep past the daily headlines to find an industry mired in unfair taxation without representation. I'm thankful to hear Biden call for mass marijuana pardons. Now Congress must find a path forward for SAFE Banking.

Weedmaps MAPS CEO, Chris Beals

Today’s news on cannabis record expungement and the potential move to de-schedule or reschedule cannabis is a significant step towards remedying some of the harm caused by the war on drugs and its disproportionate impact on communities of color. For too long, the prohibition of cannabis and the selective enforcement of cannabis laws was used as a pretense for a host of injustices. While full legalization and record expungement is still needed and we actually have to see these promises turn into action, today is a step in the right direction.

Today also has the potential to be an important moment for the trajectory of the cannabis industry and our future growth as a company. For the legal cannabis industry, this can open the door to accelerated growth with more jurisdictions allowing cannabis sales. Far too many states and cities have cited Federal prohibition when deciding to not allow safe, legal access to cannabis. It also opens the door to robust medical research, something that is long overdue for a substance that shows so much promise to help people.

Chris Walsh, CEO of MJBiz and MJBizCon

President Biden finally said what the majority of people in the U.S. think: current federal laws around marijuana make no sense. It’s about time. The fact that people are still sitting in jail solely for simple cannabis possession while most states in the country have legalized marijuana and the industry generates $30 billion in annual sales is a travesty.

This is as strong an indication as we’ve seen from a federal perspective that we might finally be on the cusp of major reform – which could ultimately lead to immense positive change for cannabis businesses.

Ayr Wellness AYRWF Head of Corporate Social Responsibility Khari Edwards

We are thrilled to see President Biden’s recently announced pardons for Federal cannabis possession, as well as the requests made to states to take action on this issue. This represents a major step in righting the wrongs of the past and amending policies that have negatively impacted so many. 

Despite cannabis being legal in more than two-thirds of the country, the ‘War on Drugs' continues to fail our fellow Americans – disproportionately targeting Black and Brown Americans and disenfranchised communities. We often think of a criminal sentence as only the time spent imprisoned, but even after the sentence, people remain in ‘paper handcuffs,’ as their record follows them around, preventing access to basic necessities like jobs, housing and healthcare. These pardons will remove the paper handcuffs and empower people to have a fresh start, providing new opportunities for them, their families, and their loved ones and healing communities. 

NorCal Co-founder and CEO Jigar Patel

While this is a great first step, I believe more political pressure should be applied, and is needed in order to get President Biden to finally stand on the right side of history. This includes calling on him to immediately reinstate the Obama-era Department of Justice memos and guidance, enabling the Department of Veterans Affairs to write cannabis recommendations and changing the rules at Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Education, so that the rights of patients and consumers who live in areas where cannabis is currently state-legal are protected. The latter doesn’t even require Congress to act. Frankly, it is beyond disappointing that President Biden has not done more to protect some of the most vulnerable veterans, patients, students and disenfranchised Americans, who have been unfairly treated and targeted for decades. While we commend President Biden on catching up with where two-thirds of Americans have been – there is a lot of work yet to be done

Troy Datcher, CEO of The Parent Company GRAMF

We applaud President Biden’s historic announcement granting mass pardons to Americans that have been convicted of federal cannabis possession. This is a critical first step towards addressing the wrong of The War on Drugs, which over decades resulted in the disproportionate incarceration of communities of color in America. We encourage Governors across the country to follow President Biden’s lead and pardon those convicted of cannabis possession at the state level, which comprise the vast majority of those convicted of cannabis crimes. We are also highly encouraged that President Biden is initiating a review of the federal scheduling of cannabis.

Cannabis has the potential to be one of the most powerful economic engines in the United States over the next decade, but only if the punitive measures created by the current policy of federal cannabis prohibition are lifted. We are eager to offer our support to the Administration as they consider the best next steps in the coming months to help reform our federal cannabis laws and address some of the harms caused by the War on Drugs.

Morgan Paxhia, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Poseidon Investment Management

Biden's move today is a real catalyst for the cannabis industry, an event that was unexpected and very welcomed. This is a big step forward for American citizens and the global cannabis industry.

George Mancheril, CEO & Co-Founder of Bespoke Financial

This is a huge step towards undoing the human cost and damage of the unsuccessful war on drugs but we expect descheduling cannabis to take significantly longer. While this is a big step in the right direction, with November elections so close and Democrats expected to lose control of Congress, we think legislative change will face significant political headwinds and likely require 2 years to be achieved.

Bryan Murray, Executive Vice President of Government Relations at Acreage Holdings ACRHF

This has been a long time coming. I applaud President Biden's historic move in pardoning all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession. This decision will chart a new course for so many who have been failed by our country's policies surrounding the use of cannabis. As the president stated, and for true equality to emerge, now is the time for our states to pardon those in local jails and state prisons, as well as our government to deschedule cannabis as a Schedule I substance. No one should be denied opportunities due to cannabis usage.

John McLeod, Co-Founder & Head of New Markets at Cloud Cannabis

As a former caregiver, I have witnessed firsthand how heavily patients rely on the plant to treat their chronic medical conditions and believe safe medical access should be provided without the risk of legal repercussions. People have been disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition, and it’s high time these people should be able to live their lives without the burden of their past convictions affecting basic human needs like job opportunities, loans, references, and so on. We view Biden’s pardoning as a huge roadblock getting lifted out of the way and we look forward to the continued effort in reaching this new era of fair and safe cannabis access.

Kassia Graham, Director of Community & Strategy at Cannaclusive

President Biden's move to grant pardons to those with low level cannabis federal offenses, and to review scheduling of the plant, is welcome though overdue. It signals the U.S. is moving towards ending cannabis prohibition. However, myself and others won't be celebrating until we see the pardons and scheduling review in action. And it's important to note people will still be in jail for cannabis as the pardon doesn't cover all offenders.

Mason Tvert, partner at VS Strategies, a national cannabis policy and public affairs firm

The significance of this announcement cannot be overstated. The message behind these pardons is that it was wrong to criminalize people simply for using marijuana. If it was wrong for the federal government to criminalize people for marijuana possession, the next question is whether it is wrong to continue criminalizing people for marijuana possession. This is a question all elected officials will have to consider, and hopefully they'll arrive at the decision that it's time to take the next step and end cannabis prohibition entirely. Most Americans recognize that marijuana is a less harmful substance than alcohol, and our nation is slowly but surely starting to treat it that way.

This development will reverberate around the country and across the globe. For decades, states and other countries have taken their cues on marijuana policy from our federal government, and the head of our federal government is taking the position that people should not have been criminalized for using marijuana.

The motivation behind this decision is irrelevant because it was the right thing to do. It has been a long time coming, and whether it was politically motivated or not, it is a welcome development. “

Leonard Tannenbaum, AFC Gamma AFCG Chief Executive Officer

Hopefully this will invigorate a push for a much needed safe act which has been stuck in congress for years and needs immediate attention from both democrats and republicans.

Joseph Dowling, CEO of CV Sciences CVSI

Our Administration has been slow to pick up its feet and take real action in reviewing its cannabis policy which has harmed thousands of Americans for far too long. Biden’s public statement to pardon all federal offenses of simple marijuana possession is the first significant step towards decriminalization and the possibility of federal legalization. We applaud the President moving in the direction of righting the wrongs of the War on Drugs.

Dr. Chanda Macias, CEO Ilera Holistic Healthcare

We applaud President Biden's decision to pardon all federal offenses of simple possession as the latest journey in the path to cannabis decriminalization. This will free thousands of people of color disproportionately targeted and wrongfully imprisoned because of the failed War on Drugs. We thank the President for this step forward and for his request to Secretary Javier Becerra to initiate the process of reviewing how marijuana is scheduled under federal law, which I feel is one of the most important steps toward ensuring every American access to this plant medicine.

Bradley Nattrass, Chairman and CEO, urban-gro UGRO

“Today’s historic announcement from the White House regarding President Biden’s plan to pardon all people convicted of simple possession of marijuana under federal law represents an important step forward toward equity and justice in our country. For thousands of people who have had their reality upended by harmful marijuana policies, they are now able to reclaim their lives and build better futures. We at urban-gro celebrate this progress and are hopeful that governors will take similar action at the state-level. It is our belief that no one should be incarcerated for simple marijuana possession at either the federal or state level. As a cannabis community, we will continue to work to evolve the perception of the industry we’re so proud to be a part of.”

Ryan G. Smith, co-founder and CEO, LeafLink

“To pardon thousands of people convicted of simple cannabis possession under federal law is the furthest action any Administration has taken to undo the criminalization of cannabis. For far too long, minority and disenfranchised groups have borne the brunt of unjust cannabis laws. Today’s decision begins to right decades of harm and is an important step towards restoring the civil rights and lives of people with cannabis convictions. We also applaud the Biden Administration for moving forward with a review of how marijuana is scheduled under federal law. We encourage the Biden Administration to speak directly with licensed cannabis operators to understand the exceptional challenges they encounter each day running their businesses. We are hopeful that the outcome will result in fair treatment of state-regulated cannabis companies. The LeafLink community looks forward to working with the Biden Administration to move the needle further on additional cannabis reforms.”


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