What Biden’s Federal Marijuana Pardon Could Mean For New Hampshire

President Joe Biden proposed a significant change in federal marijuana policy with a three-part announcement, and he is urging governors to encourage similar changes in the states.

Biden intends to pardon thousands of individuals with prior federal convictions for simple marijuana use. He said that this decision will benefit those who currently encounter obstacles in jobs, housing, and education due to their criminal records.

President Joe Biden said he’s pushing other governors to “do the same” for marijuana charges at the state level, which account for most marijuana convictions nationwide.

Because of our erroneous attitude to marijuana, “too many lives have been upended,” Biden remarked. “We need to make these wrongs right, there are thousands of people who were found guilty of marijuana possession, he continued, and as a result, they might not be able to find work, live in a good place, or attend a good school. My pardon will relieve them of this burden.”

According to preliminary estimates, 6,500 individuals convicted on federal counts of simple possession of marijuana from 1992 to 2021 are impacted by the president’s pardon. But if other states do the same, the number will be far higher.

Following Biden’s declaration, other agencies rapidly announced their next measures. According to a statement from the Justice Department, it will “promptly administer the President’s proclamation” regarding pardons and will collaborate with the Department of Health and Human Services to begin a scientific investigation into how marijuana is classified under federal law.

How will the president’s move impact N.H.?

Following President Joe Biden’s announcement of pardons for federal marijuana possession convictions on Thursday, defense lawyers and supporters for criminal justice reform in New Hampshire expressed hope for a similar change in state policy.

There won’t be much of a direct effect of the pardons in New Hampshire. Most marijuana possession convictions occur in state courts, while federal prosecutions for simple possession are rare. Most of the federal convictions for simple possession occur on federal property like a state park, or a military base.

The governor needs permission from the Executive Council before issuing a pardon. The New Hampshire Supreme Court also ruled that while a pardon removes the burden associated with a conviction, it does not completely remove it. As a result, the charge may still come up in background checks conducted by landlords and potential employers.

In 2017, even though it is still illegal, New Hampshire decriminalized small amounts of marijuana. Before that, several thousand people in the state were arrested annually for simple marijuana possession, with a disproportionate percentage occurring against African-Americans, despite national data showing that marijuana consumption among White and African-Americans is quite similar.

The Republican Governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, has not yet said how he will react to Biden’s request. Sununu and the state’s Department of Justice are reviewing Biden’s decision, according to a representative for the governor’s office.

The spokeswoman continued, “Governor Sununu has done more on the problems surrounding marijuana legalization than any other governor in New Hampshire history.” She said that, “Chris Sununu signed common sense decriminalization so that no one would be jailed for simple possession of small amounts of marijuana, extended access to medical marijuana, and provided a pathway to previous convictions for marijuana possession” after “years of inaction by Democrat governors.”

State Senator Tom Sherman, a Democrat running against Sununu in the general election on November 8th, declared he would advance marijuana legalization and pardons.

Sherman said, “I would speed up attempts to pardon persons convicted of state-level offenses for nonviolent simple possession of marijuana.” Sherman agreed that pardoning such offenders is the right thing to do. For more information on what the federal marijuana pardon could mean for New Hampshire, Call criminal lawyers Cohen & Winters at 603-224-6999.

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