Biden’s Pardon for Simple Possession of Marijuana Offenders Only Applies to Federal Court
Earlier this month, President Biden issued a pardon for all US citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been convicted of simple possession of marijuana (or who have committed the offense and haven’t yet been charged or convicted).
Marijuana pardons all ‘round! This is incredible!
Wait, though… It’s not exactly marijuana pardons all around, because the president only has the authority to pardon federal offenses.
So, who does the pardon apply to and what can you do if you have a simple possession of marijuana conviction in South Carolina state court?
Biden’s Marijuana Pardon Only Applies to Federal Offenses
On October 6, 2022, President Biden announced that he will pardon all US citizens and lawful permanent residents who have committed or been convicted of the offense of simple possession of marijuana under federal law:
Acting pursuant to the grant of authority in Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution of the United States, I, Joseph R. Biden Jr., do hereby grant a full, complete, and unconditional pardon to (1) all current United States citizens and lawful permanent residents who committed the offense of simple possession of marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, as currently codified at 21 U.S.C. 844 and as previously codified elsewhere in the United States Code, or in violation of D.C. Code 48–904.01(d)(1), on or before the date of this proclamation, regardless of whether they have been charged with or prosecuted for this offense on or before the date of this proclamation; and (2) all current United States citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been convicted of the offense of simple possession of marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, as currently codified at 21 U.S.C. 844 and as previously codified elsewhere in the United States Code, or in violation of D.C. Code 48–904.01(d)(1); which pardon shall restore to them full political, civil, and other rights.
The pardon does not affect anyone who has a conviction for simple possession of marijuana under state laws.
It does not apply to undocumented immigrants – only US citizens and lawful permanent residents, and it does not apply to more serious federal offenses like trafficking in marijuana, manufacturing marijuana, distribution of marijuana, or conspiracy:
My intent by this proclamation is to pardon only the offense of simple possession of marijuana in violation of Federal law or in violation of D.C. Code 48–904.01(d)(1), and not any other offenses related to marijuana or other controlled substances. No language herein shall be construed to pardon any person for any other offense, including possession of other controlled substances, whether committed prior, subsequent, or contemporaneous to the pardoned offense of simple possession of marijuana. This pardon does not apply to individuals who were non-citizens not lawfully present in the United States at the time of their offense.
What about everyone else? What if you have a simple possession of marijuana conviction in SC state court or more serious drug convictions in SC? Are you just out of luck?
Although Biden has urged state governors to follow his lead in pardoning minor marijuana offenses, few are taking up the challenge. What can you do if your convictions are in SC?
You Can Still Apply for an Expungement or Pardon in SC
Even a minor drug conviction can cause considerable problems for the average person.
Each time you are pulled over for a speeding ticket, the cop is going to see it and may decide to search your car. Each time you apply for a job, and they conduct a background search, your potential employer is going to see it and may pass you over for a less risky applicant.
You have two potential ways to clean up your record in SC, though: expungement or a state pardon.
Expungement of Drug Offenses in SC
An expungement erases the conviction from your criminal history, while a pardon leaves the conviction on your record but stamps “pardoned” next to it.
You can get any first-offense drug conviction expunged from your record in SC after three years, including:
- Marijuana offenses,
- Prescription drug offenses,
- Cocaine charges,
- Heroin charges, or
- Simple possession of any type of controlled substance.
You can also get the more serious offense of possession with intent to distribute (PWID) marijuana or any other type of controlled substance expunged after 20 years.
Pardons in SC
If you are not eligible for an expungement of your drug convictions in SC, you may still be able to get a pardon from the State of SC.
Unlike Biden’s “blanket pardon” of every person who has committed or been convicted of simple possession of marijuana under federal law, you must apply for a SC state pardon and go through a formal process that usually takes around nine months from start to finish.
Depending on the nature of your conviction, your criminal record may prevent you from:
- Owning a firearm or concealed weapon permit,
- Getting occupational licenses,
- Getting hired at some jobs,
- Finding housing,
- Getting financial aid for college,
- Getting security clearances, or
- Traveling abroad.
Although it does not “wipe your record clean,” a pardon will restore your civil rights and your criminal history will reflect that you have been pardoned.
Furthermore, unlike some states where it is nearly impossible to get a pardon, you have a real chance at receiving a pardon in SC if you can demonstrate that you are no longer engaging in criminal activity, you are a productive member of your community, and you have a need for the pardon.
Pardon and Expungement Lawyers in Charleston, SC
If you think that you may qualify for expungement of your South Carolina convictions or a pardon, call Charleston, SC expungement attorney Grant B. Smaldone now at (843) 808-2100 or contact us through our website for a free consultation to see if you are eligible.