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Biden Grants Pardons to Thousands for Federal MJ Convictions, Clemency for Eleven with Drug Convictions, More... (12/22/23)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1202)
Consequences of Prohibition

A Ukrainian rightist faction is blocking the signing of the just-passed medical marijuana bill, the Biden administration moves to expand access to naloxone at federal facilities, and more.

Biden grants more pardons and clemencies. (
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Officials Will No Longer Pursue Most Cases Involving Prenatal Marijuana Exposure. The Department of Child Safety has announced that it will no longer take punitive action against women who consume marijuana during their pregnancies. The decision comes nearly a year after the state Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision finding that doctor-approved medical marijuana use by pregnant women is not child neglect under state law.

The department has since acknowledged that it does not have the legal authority to investigate cases involving prenatal marijuana exposure unless there are explicit allegations of child neglect.

The new policy will take effect in January.

Harm Reduction

Biden Administration Takes Action to Increase Naloxone Access at Federal Facilities. On Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the General Services Administration (GSA) announced new guidance recommending that all federal facilities across the nation include overdose reversal medications in their safety stations on site. The recommendation will make lifesaving medications like naloxone more readily available in case of an emergency situation.

"Far too many lives are being lost to overdose. Fortunately, we know what it takes to save people. Safety stations save lives," said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. "We must continue to do everything we can to make sure the necessary tools are quickly and easily available so anyone can respond to an emergency situation -- anytime, anywhere. It's about empowering everyone to play a role in saving lives when it counts the most."

"Saving lives is at the very core of the HHS Overdose Prevention Strategy and that's why it's so important for federal facilities to have naloxone and other opioid overdose reversal medications readily available," said Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and the leader of SAMHSA. "Taking this step ensures these lifesaving medications are accessible, and protects the millions of Americans that work in and visit these facilities every year."

The updated guidelines expand the concept of an automated external defibrillators (AED) program by introducing the "safety station," which would enable anyone located within a federal facility to access the necessary tools quickly and easily to respond to an emergency situation. Under the new guidance, anywhere that an AED was previously located can and should be converted to a safety station. Each safety station is recommended to include an AED and supporting equipment at a minimum. It is now highly recommended that each station also includes either a bystander-empowered opioid reversal agent or hemorrhagic control component, or both.

Pardons and Commutations

Biden Pardons Thousands of Federal Marijuana Offenders, Commutes Sentences for 11 Drug Offenders. President Biden on Friday pardoned thousands of Americans who had been convicted of using or possessing marijuana on a variety of federal lands. He also commute the sentences of eleven people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses.

The marijuana pardons apply to federal lands including national parks and forests wildlife refuges, and even the CIA grounds. They apply only to US citizens and only to small-time pot possession. People charged with marijuana distribution or driving under the influence are not covered.

The eleven clemency recipients were serving decades-long or even life sentences but would have been sentenced to less time under recent sentencing reforms. Some of them were serving sentences for crack offenses.

"Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It's time that we right these wrongs," the president said in a statement. "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 also pardoned thousands of federal marijuana possession convictions in 2022, and at the end of last year, he pardoned six Americans with drug-related charges.


Ukrainian Rightist Parliamentary Faction Blocks Signing of Medical Marijuana Bill. The Ukrainiana parliament, the Verkhova Rada, approved medical marijuana on Thursday, but on Friday, the rightist Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) parliamentary faction blocked the signing of the bill.

The bill will remain blocked until at least mid-January, when the parliament could move to unblock and let it be signed into law by President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Batkivshchyna leader Yulia Timoshenko has consistently opposed the legalization of medical marijuana and has charged that the bill "legalizes drug trafficking and the drug mafia in the country," without providing evidence to support her accusations.

She also said that her party intends to ask the Constitutional Courts to annul the results of the vote because "the amendments to the bill were considered in a half-empty chamber."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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