President Joe Biden announced in early October 2022 that he has issued pardons for those convicted of simple marijuana possession in federal courts.

This is good news for those with past marijuana convictions on their records. Public attitudes on marijuana possession and use have rapidly evolved over the last decade, and federal law hasn’t kept up.

Marijuana is federally classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it is classified to have a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use. This places marijuana in the same category as heroin, cocaine and LSD. This means that a federal conviction for marijuana possession could not only lead to fines and jail time, but also a criminal record that might make it hard to find employment or housing later on.

With the president’s recent pardon, those who have been convicted of this victimless crime can now begin to move on with their lives. We’ve collected some information here to help those who are researching the situation.

What is federal simple marijuana possession?

Federal simple marijuana possession is defined in 21 U.S. Code § 844 as having marijuana without the intent to sell, distribute, or manufacture it. This type of possession is typically considered a Class A misdemeanor offense.

Most of the time, marijuana possession cases fall under state jurisdiction. However, you could previously be charged for federal simple marijuana possession if you are caught with marijuana either on federal property or in the District of Columbia.

As a Class A Misdemeanor, federal simple marijuana possession is punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

Does the presidential pardon affect ‘conspiracy to distribute’ and more complex cases?

No. The presidential pardon only applies to those convicted of federal simple marijuana possession. It does not apply to other federal marijuana offenses, such as conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

What about marijuana possession cases in California?

The presidential pardon does not apply to those with state-level marijuana convictions. However, President Biden urged states to follow suit.

California already allows for automatic review and expungement of many marijuana convictions. In California, you may be eligible to have your record sealed or destroyed if you were convicted of a misdemeanor possession offense and either:

  • You were sentenced to probation
  • You completed your sentence more than two years ago
  • You were under the age of 18 when you committed the offense

If you are not sure if you are eligible to have your record sealed or destroyed, an attorney can help you understand your case and the options available to you.

If I am pardoned, is the conviction removed from my criminal record?

As we mentioned above, one of the most difficult parts of facing a drug possession charge is the mark on your criminal record.

A presidential pardon doesn’t erase your criminal record, but it does forgive the crime. This means that your record will include both the crime and the record of the pardon.

It is possible to have the conviction to be expunged from your federal criminal record. This involves a more complicated legal process, but an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you navigate it.

Get help getting your criminal record cleared

If you or someone you love have been convicted of federal simple marijuana possession or a similar charge, it might be possible to have your criminal record expunged or sealed. This process can be complicated and it depends on the specific facts of your case, but an experienced attorney can help you through the process.

Robert M. Helfend is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles. He takes on marijuana possession cases in addition to a wide variety of other drug charges, homicide cases and violent crimes.

Call Mr. Helfend today at 800-834-6434 to discuss your case and learn more about your options.