Oct 13, 2022 - Politics

How the pot possession pardon looks in Michigan

Illustration of aviator sunglasses with cannabis leaves reflected in the lenses.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

President Biden is pardoning all prior federal offenses for simple cannabis possession, but local activists want to see more.

What's happening: The pardons are expected to apply to around 6,500 Americans, helping them obtain housing and jobs.

  • But none of them are still in prison, per the Last Prisoner Project.
  • The pardons also leave out those convicted of distribution and other federal charges.

The big picture: While cannabis has been legal medically in Michigan since 2008 and recreationally since 2018, and the industry reported $1.3 billion in sales last year, thousands of Michiganders have been harmed by marijuana criminalization.

  • A tough-to-estimate number are incarcerated for it. It isn't immediately clear how many Michiganders the presidential pardon will apply to.

What they're saying: The pardons are helpful for some and constitute a "political message" that the Biden administration is moving in the right direction — but there's a long way to go, Marshall Clabeaux of the Michigan Cannabis Freedom Coalition tells Axios.

  • For one, the coalition wants to see more state-level opportunities to get cannabis felonies cleared from records. There are also many calling for federal legalization.
  • Narmin Jarrous, an industry executive and equity advocate, tells Axios, "There are all these exceptions, so it's kind of frustrating … and it kind of feels like we're being given crumbs."

Yes, but: Michigan granted relief to some with marijuana convictions after legalizing its use. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation for streamlined removal of pot and other misdemeanors from public record, her office said in a statement to Axios.

  • The state law allows manual expungement for first-time cannabis offenses, with an automatic expungement process for non-violent offenses expected to start next April.

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