Justice and Due Process

Governor Cox, the Time Is Now To Ask for the Pardoning of Simple State Marijuana Possession Convictions

The Biden administration has officially taken one of the first significant steps toward federally decriminalizing marijuana. On Thursday, October 6, 2022, President Biden pardoned all federal offenses for simple marijuana possession, essentially erasing all prior federal marijuana possession convictions. This action will affect thousands of Americans impacted by those convictions. 

In addition to the action outlined above, the President tasked the Department of Health and Human Services and Attorney General Merrick Garland with examining the scheduling of marijuana. This represents an initial move toward potentially easing the currently absurd federal classification of marijuana. 

Under the current law, marijuana is illegal under federal law, and because of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is listed as a Schedule 1 substance. This classification means that, despite many states acknowledging the medicinal value of marijuana, the federal government sees marijuana as a substance possessing no medical use. 

While these moves stop short of full decriminalization, they should be applauded as individuals with prior convictions for possession of marijuana can face negative repercussions for decades. Charges and convictions of this type can lead to considerable monetary penalties and jail time. Perhaps more importantly, these charges can impede individuals from finding stable employment or housing. 

Libertas Institute has long recognized the medical value of marijuana and supports easing marijuana restrictions. Libertas’s work in this arena culminated in Libertas Institute successfully championing Proposition 2. This proposition legalized the use of medical cannabis for qualified patients within the state of Utah.

Despite these efforts, there is still much work to be done. Utah’s drug possession laws impose draconian punishments.  In fact, someone convicted of carrying less than one ounce of marijuana can face up to a $1,000 fine and six months of incarceration. 

With the recent actions of the President, a logical step in remedying Utah’s approach to those convicted of simple marijuana possession charges would be for the Governor to utilize his influence and call for a pardoning of all state simple marijuana possession convictions. Specifically, Governor Cox should immediately recommend this action to the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, as they have the authority to make this change in the state.