After a several month delay, the Justice Department has opened the online application process for those persons eligible to receive certificates indicating that their marijuana-related convictions have been pardoned by the President.
The website began accepting applications hours after a notice published in the Federal Register stated that the Office of the Pardon Attorney had “developed the subject form to collect information from potential pardon recipients.” In its notice, the Office estimated that as many as 20,000 people may apply to receive pardon certificates.
In October, President Joe Biden proclaimed that he was using his executive authority to provide pardons to all Americans with a federal conviction on their record for low-level marijuana possession. NORML had called upon the Administration to grant blanket pardon relief to nonviolent marijuana offenders shortly after the President took office. Estimates provided last fall by the US Sentencing Commission indicated that nearly 7,000 Americans would be eligible for relief.
In December, Justice Department officials said that an online application process for those seeking pardon certificates would be available “very soon.” NORML publicly criticized the Administration earlier this month for its failure to provide pardon certificates in an expedited manner, stating: “Many of those eligible for forgiveness have suffered numerous lost opportunities over the years because of a lingering conviction for behavior that most Americans no longer believe should be a crime. They should not have to continue to wait for relief any longer.”
The issuance of the pardon certificates are important because possessing the certificate provides “proof” that one’s conviction has been pardoned under the terms of the President’s proclamation.
The President’s pardon proclamation does not provide relief for state-level marijuana possession convictions. To date, 24 states have enacted laws providing explicit pathways to either expunge (or otherwise set aside) the records of those with low-level marijuana convictions. According to publicly available data compiled by NORML, state and local officials have issued over 100,000 pardons and more than 1.7 million marijuana-related expungements since 2018.