Tuesday is a big day for potheads — or marijuana enthusiasts: It’s 4/20, the calendar day marking toke-up time. A number of Mary Jane aficionados are currently in the slammer for weed offenses — many of them as a result of the 1994 crime bill President Joe Biden slapped his name on when he was a senator from Delaware.
Now, hashish hounds stuck in the clink — and their advocates on the outside — are using 4/20 to remind Biden of his campaign pledge to get them out and get their records expunged, the New York Post reported.
What’s this now?
The president received repeated criticism from the left during the 2020 Democratic primaries for his tough-on-crime stance in the 1990s — characterized by his mantra of “Lock the S.O.B.s up” — that led him to help draft and pass legislation that featured a crackdown on drug offenses with increased jail time for perpetrators, including a “three-strikes” provision that mandated life sentences for violent felonies and drug trafficking.
Biden attempted to appease critics on the left by saying he wanted free ganja prisoners and get their records cleared.
“I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period,” he said during the Nov. 20, 2019, Democratic primary debate. “And I think everyone — anyone who has a record should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out.”
Biden, who has repeatedly claimed that he opposes pot legalization, added, “But I do think it makes sense, based on data, that we should study what the long-term effects are for the use of marijuana. That’s all it is. Number one, everybody gets out, record expunged.”
His campaign website largely echoed those sentiments, though it did say Biden wanted to “decriminalize” pot use:
? Decriminalize the use of cannabis and automatically expunge all prior cannabis use convictions. Biden believes no one should be in jail because of cannabis use. As president, he will decriminalize cannabis use and automatically expunge prior convictions. And, he will support the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes, leave decisions regarding legalization for recreational use up to the states, and reschedule cannabis as a schedule II drug so researchers can study its positive and negative impacts.
? End all incarceration for drug use alone and instead divert individuals to drug courts and treatment. Biden believes that no one should be imprisoned for the use of illegal drugs alone. Instead, Biden will require federal courts to divert these individuals to drug courts so they receive treatment to address their substance use disorder. He’ll incentivize states to put the same requirements in place. And, he’ll expand funding for federal, state, and local drug courts. […]
? Use the president’s clemency power to secure the release of individuals facing unduly long sentences for certain non-violent and drug crimes. President Obama used his clemency power more than any of the 10 prior presidents. Biden will continue this tradition and broadly use his clemency power for certain non-violent and drug crimes.
Now marijuana users are pushing Biden to stick to his guns.
Corvain Cooper was jailed for life for pot under the “three strikes” provision, but he was released in January by President Donald Trump. He noted that the drug has been legalized in several states that are now raking in a lot of tax money from weed.
He told the Post, “No one should be serving a long prison sentence over marijuana when states and big corporations are making billions of dollars off of this plant,” adding, “When the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, the president has to step in and fix that.”
Ismael Lira, who, the Post said, was convicted of distributing marijuana imported from Mexico, said in an email to the paper, “I believe President Biden truly sees the harm caused to the community of color, and I also believe President Biden will keep his promise to free all pot prisoners.”
Pedro Moreno was convicted on similar distribution charges and sentenced to life in prison in 2001. According to the Post, he was a first-time offender and is now praying the president “will have mercy on me and my family”:
All I want is to reunite with my children and my grandkids so we can become whole and put my past mistakes to bed. April is second chance month. I pray President Biden will consider me worthy of a second chance so my family can celebrate all the milestones we have missed over the years. I’m truly remorseful for my crime and pledge to devote my life to making up for the past. I promise I won’t need a third chance.
Cooper’s attorney, Patrick Megaro, who successfully got his client released, is putting pressure on Biden:
I would like to see President Biden honor his commitment to criminal justice reform by using the authority given to the president in the Constitution to right the wrongs of the past, especially the results of the 1994 crime bill he sponsored as a senator. I believe President Biden owes it to the people and the families this law negatively impacted.
And clemency advocate Amy Povah is pressuring the Biden-Harris White House to keep its promises, the Post noted.
“It’s time to end the hypocrisy that allows some to rake in millions while others languish in prison even during a historic pandemic,” she said. “Given that both President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took strong positions on the campaign trail to free the pot prisoners, decriminalize cannabis and expunge the records of those with cannabis convictions, we are anxiously awaiting to hear whether how that will come about.
“It adds insult to injury that literally millions of people will be celebrating what has become a national holiday for cannabis enthusiasts on April 20th while people serving time for pot continue to languish in prison for engaging in the same activity that is now legal [in many states],” Povah added.
According to the Post, Trump’s First Step Act reduced the “Biden law’s mandatory life sentence for a third serious drug conviction” to 25 years — however, the reduction was not retroactive.
The White House did not respond to the Post’s requests for comment.