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VP Kamala Harris Highlights Marijuana Pardons At Another White House Event With Presidential Clemency Recipients


Vice President Kamala Harris again promoted the administration’s marijuana pardons at a White House event on Thursday, reiterating that she doesn’t believe “people should have to go to jail for smoking weed.”

At a roundtable event alongside Kim Kardashian and four people who received presidential pardons for drug-related convictions on Wednesday, Harris said the administration remains committed to exercising its clemency authority, which has included President Joe Biden’s pardon proclamations for federal cannabis offenses.

“We have issued—as an administration with President Biden’s leadership—more pardons and commutations than any recent administration at this point in their term,” she said. “For example, on marijuana: We have pardoned all people for federal convictions for simple marijuana possession.”

“Many of you have heard me say, I just don’t think people should have to go to jail for smoking weed. And these pardons have been issued as an extension of that approach,” the vice president said.

The event, which coincides with Second Chance Month, comes a month after Harris hosted marijuana pardon recipients at the White House for a separate roundtable discussion focused on their experiences receiving clemency and obtaining Justice Department certifications formally documenting the relief.

At that event, Harris pressed the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reschedule cannabis “as quickly as possible” in accordance with the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). She also late said during a closed-door portion of the roundtable that “we need to legalize marijuana.”

Also on Thursday, the White House separately touted Biden’s cannabis actions in a fact sheet about Second Chance Month, saying the administration is “addressing a failed approach to marijuana.

“Sending people to prison for marijuana possession has upended too many lives for conduct that is now legal in many states,” it says.

“Following his October 2022 pardon of prior federal and D.C. offenses of simple possession of marijuana, in December 2023, the President issued a Proclamation that pardoned additional offenses of simple possession and use of marijuana under federal and D.C. law, as well certain violations under the Code of Federal Regulations involving simple marijuana,” the fact sheet says. “These full, categorical pardons lift barriers to housing, employment, and educational opportunities for thousands of people.”

As the election approaches, it’s become clear that the Biden-Harris administration understands the popularity of cannabis reform and is willing to lean into the issue. On the cannabis holiday 4/20 last Saturday, for example, both Biden and Harris promoted marijuana policy reform in social media posts at exactly 4:20pm ET.

Advocates have been encouraged to see the administration continue to grant and promote clemency for people criminalized over drugs, but the latest round highlighted by Harris on Thursday also came as a reminder that thousands of people remain incarcerated over federal marijuana offenses.

Last month, 36 members of Congress implored Biden to grant clemency to all Americans currently in federal prison over non-violent cannabis convictions by commuting their sentences, pointing out that the pardons he’s issued to date for simple possession cases did not release a single person from incarceration.

Biden has strongly indicated that he’s uninterested in expanding his marijuana clemency efforts beyond people who’ve faced convictions for use or simple possession, however. At a campaign stop in Wisconsin last month, for example, he said that “if you’re out selling it, if you’re out growing, it’s a different deal.”

Meanwhile, the president also discussed the marijuana actions in a historic context last month, during his State of the Union address.

Earlier this month, Biden, Harris and a top Justice Department official all marked “Second Chance Month” by separately touting the administration’s mass marijuana pardons—another acknowledgement from the White House that cannabis reform is a focus heading into the November election.

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