Biden commutes nonviolent drug offenders' sentences

While President Biden announced he is commuting the sentences of 11 drug offenders, others charged for some marijuana-related crimes will be pardoned.
President Joe Biden answers a reporter's question as he walks from Marine One.
Posted at 9:37 AM, Dec 22, 2023

President Joe Biden announced he is commuting the sentences of 11 people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses that he called "disproportionate." 

The White House said that the 11 individuals having their sentences commuted would have had shorter sentences had they been sentenced today. The White House said that some of those receiving a commuted sentence received sentences twice as long as they would have likely received now. 

The 11 individuals all received convictions for charges relating to methamphetamine or cocaine distribution and/or possession. The sentences ranged from 15 years to life. Most of the 11 will have a supervised release in 2024.

"Law enforcement and experts now recognize that the crack-to-powder sentencing disparity is not supported by science, does not advance public safety, and disproportionately impacts Black communities," a senior administration official said. "That is why the president supports efforts that would help eliminate this sentencing difference. And the attorney general has also expressed support for eliminating the crack-to-powder sentencing disparity and has directed federal prosecutors to promote the equivalent treatment of crack and powder cocaine offenses."

Laws protecting California workers who use marijuana take effect soon
Man smoking marijuana

Laws protecting California workers who use marijuana take effect soon

The new protections are thanks to an amendment to California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act that was approved by Gov. Gavin Newsom back in 2022.


Also, President Biden announced he will pardon additional offenses of simple possession and use of marijuana on federal lands or the District of Columbia. In 2022, Biden pardoned thousands who were convicted of simple possession of marijuana. It is not clear how many people will be affected by Friday's proclamation. 

President Biden said that these drug convictions cost people opportunities for employment, housing and education. 

"Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the use or possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either," Biden said. "That’s why I continue to urge governors to do the same with regard to state offenses and applaud those who have since taken action."