With the swipe of a pen, President Joe Biden wiped marijuana use or possession offenses off the records of thousands of Americans.
Biden’s pardon power applies only to those who were charged federally. Still, advocates say it’s a major step in the right direction.
“If anybody’s being honest, we know people who have smoked or used cannabis. Only a relative unlucky few have gotten convictions, and that’s just not fair,” said Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit.
Savit noted another significant step in Thursday’s announcement. President Biden also ordered a review cannabis’ classification status as a schedule 1 drug under federal law. “It is the same level as heroin and fentanyl,” said Savit, even though marijuana is legal in Michigan and 18 other states.
The impact of that type of offense can follow a person and hinder them in many aspects of life. Detroit’s NAACP President Reverend Wendell Anthony explains, “as it relates to being able to go purchase a house, rent a house, get a job or educational assistance or support. And now those barriers have been brought down by this ruling.”
He says the next step is for state and local jurisdictions to follow the president’s lead.
In Michigan, there is a pathway in place to help people get marijuana convictions expunged from their records. The last time Anthony hosted an event to help people do that, thousands lined up. He said many people had drug-related offenses they hoped to be cleared. “You can expunge that, so people have a new opportunity to get an opportunity, people can start afresh.”
If you need help getting your record expungement, you can contact the NAACP at 313-871-2087.
If you are a resident of Washtenaw County, there is a special team dedicated to helping people through the application process. For more information, you can inquire with Washtenaw County officials by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.