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Dozens of Marijuana Convictions Pardoned

January 20, 2021

On his final day in the White House, Donald Trump granted clemency for dozens of people with marijuana convictions and drug-related charges. This latest batch of pardons came as a result of a push from criminal justice reform advocates, Republican lawmakers, and celebrities who coordinated with the Trump administration via a November letter

In the letter, the coalition pointed out Trump’s remarks regarding support of bipartisan legislation to protect state cannabis programs from federal intervention. They went on to argue that federal prohibition most harmed those subject to the congressional gridlock, and that without executive action, relief could not take place. 

Trump senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner responded to the letter by requesting an addendum for names that the coalition felt was most deserving of clemency. They provided those names, several of which have been granted exemption by the Trump Administration as of January 20. 

Which Marijuana Convictions were Overturned, Who Got Denied 

A couple of noteworthy names were granted relief from their prison sentence by Trump, including Craig Cesal, who was granted clemency for a federal marijuana conviction that required the serving of a life sentence. The list also included Michael Pelletier, an individual released after serving 14 years of a life sentence for a federal marijuana conviction at age 64. 

However, not every person that was fought for made the pardoning list. That includes Luke Scarmazzo, who was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison after operating a California state-legal medical cannabis operation in California. 

President Obama also passed up the opportunity to grant clemency for Scarmazzo in 2016 upon his departure from the presidency. 

In total, twelve people with prior cannabis convictions were pardoned by the outgoing president. More than two dozen other drug offenders were also granted pardons or communications (reduced punishment).

Going forward, criminal justice reform and cannabis advocates are cautiously hopeful that with a Democratic senate and Democratic presidential administration, reparations for the war on drugs will continue—hopefully at a faster rate. 

Contributed by Jack Berning