More Than 130 Civil Rights Groups Implore Biden To Include Immigrants In Cannabis Pardons

More than 130 immigration, civil rights and criminal justice groups are urging President Joe Biden to include immigrants in cannabis pardons that were announced last month. 

These groups sent a letter to the President, in which they said they are “grimly disappointed at the explicit exclusion of many immigrants and at the absence of affirmative measures to ensure that all immigrants get meaningful relief from the immigration consequences that can follow marijuana convictions.”

What happened 

President Biden announced a historic move last month: he issued a pardon for all prior federal offenses of simple cannabis possession.

The action is estimated to benefit some 6,500 Americans, while some 40,000 people who were convicted on a state level remain unaffected unless governors abide by Biden’s suggestion and do the same.

Shortly after, immigration rights advocates roundly protested because “this pardon does not apply to individuals who were non-citizens not lawfully present in the United States at the time of their offense,” Marijuana Moment reported at the time.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) was one of the first politicians to publicly raise awareness of the issue, first via Twitter and then during an interview with Pod Save America.

What Now?

Led by the National Immigration Project (NIPNLG) and National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), the letter call on Biden to extend protection to all immigrants, regardless of their legal status at the time of the offense. It also asks for necessary steps to ensure that immigrants don’t suffer negative immigration-related consequences from cannabis convictions. 

This is not the first time these groups are acting on this issue. They released a similar letter back in June 2021, when the Biden administration first announced the development of a pardon process. In that letter, the organizations pointed out that immigration is a racial justice issue and urged Biden to include immigrants in the pardon process. 

"To truly promote racial equity, the President's pardon process must include meaningful relief for immigrants,” Sirine Shebaya, executive director of the National Immigration Project stated. “Black and brown immigrants are disproportionately targeted and punished twice over, first by the criminal system and then by the immigration system. President Biden must ensure that immigrants can benefit equally from this process and that people who receive a pardon or clemency are able to return to their communities and are not subject to detention and deportation."

Heidi Altman, policy director of the National Immigrant Justice Center commented. “Overpolicing and mass incarceration continue to destabilize Black and Brown communities at a shockingly disparate rate. These unjust racial disparities separate families and halt livelihoods. These harms fall on Black and Brown immigrants and U.S. citizens in equal measure," Altman said. "Yet when important measures are taken to ameliorate these injustices, immigrants too often are left behind. We call on the Biden administration to ensure that pardon and clemency measures extend to the immigration consequences that result from the underlying conviction, and that such measures include all immigrants.”

Biden’s cannabis pardons also do not apply to members of the U.S. military, a White House official confirmed last month. 

Taking all these “exemptions” from the pardons, it comes as no surprise that cannabis activists protested outside of the White House on Oct. 24, urging Biden to keep on his promise and release those incarcerated over marijuana-related offenses. The action was organized by Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) the Last Prisoner Project (LPP) and DC and Maryland Marijuana Justice (DCMJ/MDMJ).

Photo: Benzinga Edit; Sources: Kindel Media by Pexels


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Posted In: CannabisNewsMarketsACOAlexandria Ocasio-CortezCannabis pardonsHeidi Altmanimmigrants marijuanaJoe BidenPod Save AmericaSirine Shebaya
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