In an October 6 statement, President Joe Biden declared “I am announcing a pardon of all prior Federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana.” That sounds like a big deal. But, it turns out to be quite underwhelming.
In fact, Biden’s action apparently will not result in the release of even a single person from federal prison. Jamiles Lartey explained in a Saturday article at The Marshall Project:
As far as bold acts of mass clemency go, it won’t lead to many people getting out of prison. In fact, it will lead to none. According to the White House and a report this week from the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) there is no one currently in federal custody for simple possession of marijuana.
Back in July of 2015, when then-President Barack Obama was announcing commutations resulting in the actual release from federal prisons of some individuals convicted for drug law violations, I advocated that Obama should do much more. After noting that nearly half of federal prisoners were incarcerated for drug convictions, I wrote:
The proper action is to eliminate the drug crimes portion of all federal prison inmates’ sentences. This would result in people convicted only of drug crimes being immediately freed. People convicted of drug and other crimes would be freed as soon as they have served the portions of their sentences arising from nondrug convictions, meaning many of them would be freed immediately as well.
Seven years later, I similarly advise that Biden should take this bold action that would free many federal prisoners.
Informed individuals dedicated to protecting liberty, such as three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul, have long understood the dangers of the US government’s drug war and called for its termination. Indeed, this stand was a component of Paul’s campaign message in his 1988 campaign as the Libertarian presidential nominee. Thirty-four years later, many individuals are still confined in US prisons for drug war crimes. What a disgrace.