‘Bold step forward’ — DC officials react to Biden pardons for ‘simple possession’ of marijuana

D.C.-area officials responded to President Joe Biden’s pardon Thursday of thousands of Americans convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana under federal law.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser called the move a big step that would benefit thousands of local residents.

“We are grateful for President Biden’s leadership in taking on an issue that continues to affect millions of American families and that has disproportionately hurt Black communities,” Bowser said. “The President’s actions are a significant step forward for our country, and one that better aligns policy with public sentiment.”

Bowser said that while the federal move also covers D.C., she says it also shows that a lack of statehood limits the District’s ability to help those who need it.

“In D.C., we have made it a priority to build a marijuana regime that is centered on safety, equity, and justice. But we cannot talk about the District and marijuana without underscoring the importance of righting another historic wrong by making Washington, D.C. the 51st state,” Bowser said.

“While we have made good progress with our medical marijuana program, because of our lack of statehood, we remain limited in our ability to right past wrongs and move forward with an equitable adult-use program. One of those limitations, and a reason President Biden’s pardons are especially important to our community, is that the Mayor of D.C. lacks the ability to grant pardons or commute sentences — a power that every state’s governor has,” she said.

Attorney General Karl Racine called Biden’s move a “bold step forward” for those disproportionately affected by marijuana laws.

“These impacts have been particularly severe in the District,” Racine said. “For example, in 2010, Black individuals were about 3.5 times more likely than white individuals to be arrested for marijuana possession nationwide. And in the District, they were more than eight times more likely.” 

In Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin did not comment on the legislation directly.

His office told WTOP that “the governor’s administration is reviewing President Biden’s executive action.”

Maryland Gov, Larry Hogan’s office hasn’t responded to a request for comment from WTOP.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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