October 11th, 2022

Breakdown of the Marijuana Pardon Announcement

On October 6, 2022, President Biden announced that he was pardoning all prior federal offenses for simple marijuana possession.  This pardon applies to individuals convicted of simple marijuana possession only, not those convicted of simple marijuana possession together with other possessory drug offenses or marijuana distribution offenses.  Additionally, the pardon only applies retrospectively, meaning that future federal charges for simple marijuana possession may still be prosecuted and result in convictions.

Limited to Federal Crimes

President Biden’s authority to pardon criminal convictions for marijuana offenses is limited to the federal level.  While he encouraged state governors to grant similar pardons on the state level, this request is not binding.  Individual states that have legalized marijuana have pardoned prior marijuana possessory offenses.  Pennsylvania has not fully legalized marijuana and the governor has not instituted broad pardons for this offense.

Pennsylvania Marijuana Pardons

Prior to President Biden’s announcement, the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons initiated the PA Marijuana Pardon Project, a one-time, large-scale pardon effort for individuals with certain minor, non-violent marijuana convictions.  This expedited pardon process received applications throughout September 2022, with final pardon decisions expected sometime in early 2023.  You can read more about this process here.  Hopefully, this project will be open to more applications in the coming months.

Legalization of Marijuana?

While President Biden’s announcement stopped short of legalizing marijuana on the federal level, he did order a review of the classification of marijuana by Health and Human Services.  Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I controlled substance; other Schedule I controlled substances include heroin and LSD.

Ultimately, the federal legalization of marijuana is an issue for Congress.  In the meantime, individual states must decide whether to decriminalize or legalize marijuana. 

Marijuana Offenses in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, possession of a small amount (<30g) of marijuana is an ungraded misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.  This offense may be eligible for expungement under the ARD (accelerated rehabilitative disposition) program, for first-time offenders.  Otherwise, individuals can seek a pardon from the Governor’s office under the expedited or non-expedited pardon process.  Law enforcement officers and district attorneys’ offices still actively prosecute these offenses.  If you are facing a marijuana charge or have a prior conviction for a marijuana-related offense, please contact our office to learn more about how we can help.

The content found in this resource is for informational reference use only and is not considered legal advice. Laws at all levels of government change frequently and the information found here may be or become outdated. It is recommended to consult your attorney for the most up-to-date information regarding current laws and legal matters.