Criminal Defense Lawyers To Biden: Release Pot Prisoners As DEA Moves To Reclassify Cannabis

Zinger Key Points
  • While acknowledging President Biden's prior pardons for federal marijuana possession, the lawyers stressed the need for broader action.
  • There are approximately 22,000 pot prisoners serving time in state correctional facilities and around 10,000 in federal prisons.

On the same day the DEA announced its decision to move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) called upon President Joe Biden to extend clemency and compassionate release to individuals with federal nonviolent marijuana convictions.

Highlighting the persistent issues faced by many, the NACDL’s plea underscores the disparity between evolving state laws and federal enforcement, stressing the enduring harm inflicted on individuals and families by ongoing marijuana prosecutions.

“The continued prosecution of marijuana crimes continues to cause irreparable harm on real people and their families,” resource counsel Elizabeth Budnitz and executive director Lisa M. Wayne wrote in their Tuesday letter to the White House counsel, reported Law360.com.

“Men and women languish in federal prisons across this country for conduct today that has been legalized in many states and under statues that have been rewritten to reflect the evolving landscape in the field of marijuana,” the letter continued.

Drawing attention to specific cases, the letter brings into focus pot prisoners like Kerry Lynn Collier, 53, who has served 11 years of a 20-year sentence for a nonviolent marijuana crime, the lawyers wrote. Collier’s situation exemplifies the dissonance between contemporary attitudes towards marijuana and the punitive measures applied retrospectively.

Biden Pardons Good But Not Enough

While acknowledging Biden’s prior pardons for federal marijuana possession offenses in October 2022 and again in December 2023, the lawyers stressed the need for broader action, advocating for clemency for individuals facing more serious charges and highlighting the limitations of merely reclassifying marijuana without broader decriminalization.

They noted that the pardons had no effect on those convicted of more serious marijuana offenses, such as possession with intent to sell or driving under the influence of marijuana.

“The partial measure of reclassification — in contrast with the ultimate solution of decriminalization — would have only a limited impact on criminal justice cases involving marijuana,” Wayne said in the statement. “While President Biden has granted pardons for federal marijuana possession cases, many more individuals languish in federal prisons with petitions pending for commutations of their sentences.”

Based on Bureau of Justice statistics the Last Prisoner Project (LPP) — a nonprofit dedicated to the release of individuals incarcerated for cannabis offenses — estimates that there are approximately 22,000 pot prisoners serving time in state correctional facilities and around 10,000 in federal prisons. Biden, who can only pardon those in federal prisons, has called on state governors to do the honors.

Now Read: ‘Better Than Football’ Says Ricky Williams As He And Jim McMahon Advocate For Cannabis Reform On CNN

Image: JRByron, WilliamCho by Pixabay

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Posted In: CannabisGovernmentNewsPoliticsLegalTop StoriesGeneralCannabis PrisonersDEANational Association of Criminal Defense LawyersPresident Biden
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