The Weldon Project and National Cannabis Roundtable Launch Cannabis Clemency Campaign

White House Criteria

Summary | Cannabis Clemency Initiative

We support the ongoing efforts to employ the federal clemency process, both to correct lingering injustices and to ensure a more efficient and fair system. With this in mind, we propose a Cannabis Clemency Initiative that would fulfill President Biden’s campaign pledge to help those still incarcerated in federal prison for marijuana offenses.

Why This Why Now

The Cannabis Clemency Initiative would affect up to 2,700 people whose continued incarceration is inconsistent with public opinion and is an artifact of applying outdated drug policies borne largely by people of color in our most vulnerable communities. The proposal represents an important first step in a larger reform effort that builds upon the experience gained from the 2014 Obama/Biden clemency program. By addressing a category of cases already implicated by a national rethinking of drug policy and widespread calls for racial justice, the Cannabis Clemency Initiative is well-timed and well-positioned to succeed while also laying the groundwork for further reforms.

How It Works

The Cannabis Clemency Initiative would evaluate commutation eligibility for two categories of individuals currently serving a federal prison sentence for a marijuana-only offense:

  1. Expedited Review. Some applicants may receive expedited consideration for clemency because they pose no risk to public safety and are incarcerated despite:
  • the existence of and compliance with a given state’s marijuana laws
  • subsequent changes in the state’s marijuana laws that would make prosecution unlikely today because the applicant’s conduct would have been in compliance with those laws
  • an applicant’s case fitting within the prior DOJ policy concerning non-prosecution of marijuana offenses
  • an applicant’s time served being longer than his or her likely sentence under current federal law
  1. Totality of Circumstances Review. Other applicants may be eligible for clemency based on the totality of the circumstances, using a multi-factor analysis that includes (but is not limited to) the following:
  • type of offense
  • whether the applicant was a significant participant in a violent drug trafficking organization or a drug cartel
  • any history of violent criminal conduct
  • considerations of conduct while incarcerated

Establishment of Temporary Board of Review

To expedite the process, we propose the establishment by Executive Order of a temporary Board of Review comprised of formerly incarcerated individuals, designees from the Department of Justice, representation from Federal Defender Organizations, and several Presidential appointees. In executing the proposed process, the Board would be responsible for reviewing an applicant’s eligibility under the criteria and, where appropriate, making recommendations to the President for the use of his clemency power.

Prioritizes Urgency of Lives and Livelihoods

The proposal’s focus on individuals incarcerated for marijuana-only offenses represents a crucial first step—freeing non-violent people imprisoned under policies Americans no longer support—which should be followed by the restoration of rights for those whose lives have been hobbled by a federal marijuana conviction. The Cannabis Clemency Initiative is thus part of broader efforts to address incarceration under outdated drug policies, as well as a call to restore the rights denied by such policies.

White House

NCR supports the ongoing efforts to employ the federal clemency process to correct lingering injustices and to ensure a more efficient and fair system. Click HERE for details on NCR’s Cannabis Clemency Initiative proposed to the Biden Administration to help those still incarcerated in federal prison for cannabis offenses.

Cannabis Criminal Justice & Clemency Symposium

NCR co-lead an in-person, invite-only Symposium on Capital Hill with lawmakers and leading experts on criminal law and policy to discuss clemency policy and criminal justice reform within the current landscape of U.S. cannabis law. Click HERE for details on the Symposium Agenda.

Clemency Petitions

NCR, The Weldon Project and Oklahoma Appleseed collaborated on the preparation and filing of multiple clemency petitions, as well as filing of additional legal and advocacy memorandum for individuals currently incarcerated because of cannabis convictions.


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