The U.S. Department of Justice on Friday announced it had finally made available pardon applications for individuals previously convicted of simple federal marijuana possession charges, for which Biden issued a sweeping pardon last October that reportedly affects roughly 6,500 Americans.
In a press release, the DOJ said the applications will be available online, and eligible applicants must submit documentation for both their conviction in either a federal or Washington D.C. court and proof of residency as of Oct. 6 last year.
The pardons don’t affect state cannabis charges, but Biden last fall urged all U.S. governors to follow his lead, which led to a mixed – and predictably partisan – reaction.
What the pardons do accomplish, according to the DOJ press release, is to alleviate “barriers to housing, employment, and educational opportunities.”
“No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said in October.
The same day, Oct. 6, Biden also kickstarted a federal review process of marijuana’s status as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which could ultimately lead to federal legalization, though when that process will conclude is anyone’s guess.
That rescheduling process starts with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is tasked with coming up with its own scheduling recommendations for cannabis, and then the question will move to the DOJ, where yet another set of analysts will come up with further recommendations. The end decision will be made by Attorney General Merrick Garland, assuming the process concludes prior to the 2024 presidential election.
HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the status of the cannabis rescheduling review.