People with La. marijuana possession charges still not off the hook after Biden’s federal pardons

Now that President Biden has pardoned all marijuana possession charges at the federal level, what will it mean for those sitting with charges by Louisiana?
Published: Oct. 11, 2022 at 4:45 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 11, 2022 at 6:39 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Now that President Biden has pardoned all marijuana possession charges at the federal level, what will that mean for those sitting with charges by the state of Louisiana?

The much-anticipated move from the White House comes just weeks before the midterm elections. People in Louisiana with those state-level offenses will still need to wait for the state to figure out what the next move will be, according to officials.

“No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” said President Biden in a White House video on social media last week.

President Biden is reportedly pushing the U.S. closer to the decriminalization of marijuana by using executive powers to pardon all prior federal possession offenses for marijuana. He’s also asked state governors to take similar action.

Officials say it is a move supported by Governor John Bel Edwards.

“That conviction should not prevent you from having access to employment, to housing, to education and so forth. We know that those convictions can have that result. So, I think he did the right thing,” said Governor Edwards to reporters last week.

Though the president and the governor may be in agreement, Governor Edwards says due to the way our state constitution is written, he does not have the power the president thinks he has.

“Because the way our state constitution is written, people with simple marijuana convictions have to go through the same kind of process that somebody who’s trying to get a pardon for what we would consider a much more serious crime has to go through,” Peter Robins-Brown with Louisiana Progress said.

Robins-Brown said it is a multi-step process, often even a multi-year process. It would need to be signed off by the parole board and be met with recommendations.

“In order to get that in front of the governor where he could do that, people with these kinds of convictions would have to go through a pretty extensive bureaucratic process,” Robins-Brown added.

According to officials, even with the trend of legalization and pardons becoming more inevitable by the year, there’s still a stigma around cannabis here at home.

WAFB spoke with three people with prior state possession offenses, and none of them felt comfortable talking on camera.

“I think if we were to talk about another type of legal medicine in Louisiana, if this was a story about Insulin, people wouldn’t have a problem coming out on camera and talking about whatever issue they might be dealing with,” Robins-Brown continued.

The president is also reportedly ordering a review of whether marijuana should be a Schedule I drug, which opens many doors for the state’s medical marijuana program to expand even more.

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