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Oct. 7, 2022

President Biden pardons thousands convicted of marijuana possession under federal law: MSU experts can discuss

President Joe Biden pardoned all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession that will affect thousands of Americans. Michigan State University experts can discuss what this means and its impact.


Scott Wolfe is an Associate Professor and Associate Director in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University. He received his PhD in criminology and criminal justice from Arizona State University. Scott’s research focuses on policing, organizational justice, legitimacy, and criminological theory.


“The enforcement of minor marijuana possession laws undoubtedly has a negative impact on police-community relations. Some community members don’t trust the police because they view minor marijuana arrests as a heavy-handed use of police authority and waste of resources. President Biden’s decision may help motivate some local police agencies to reduce enforcement of minor marijuana possession laws and, thereby, cut down one barrier to stronger community relations. Given that marijuana arrests disproportionately impact Black communities, and these communities have the worst relationship with the police, this change may prove to be a step in the right direction for improving police race relations in our country.




Joe Hamm is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice with a joint appointment in the Environmental Science and Policy Program and Department of Political Science. Joe’s work addresses the nature and dynamics of trust and contributes to a cross-boundary understanding that can be leveraged by governance agencies to monitor, protect, and build trust.


“Communities across the country have long suffered from policing efforts that, although aimed to increase public safety, end up appearing to do more harm than good. By criminalizing marijuana use, our criminal justice system has extracted a significant toll that has disproportionately been felt in disenfranchised communities where any benefits that may have been garnered have been much less clear. By pardoning federal marijuana use offenses, the Biden Administration may be seen as signaling a recognition of the excessiveness of these activities, an important first step toward addressing the harm they have caused. More is certainly needed, but this move creates some cause for hope in the task of building trust in the criminal justice system.”




Jennifer E. Cobbina-Dungy is a Professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University. Her primary research focuses on public response to police use of force. Her second research area focuses on prisoner reentry and the understanding of recidivism and desistance among recently released female offenders. Finally, she examines how the intersection of race, gender, and neighborhood context shape victimization risks among minority youth.


“The President’s announcement to pardon all federal offenses of simple marijuana possession is a good step in the right direction. Too many people who leave prison continue to face structural barriers, and collateral consequences for having a felony offense. The President’s pardon will help many people who were incarcerated for simple marijuana possession leave prison and hopefully successfully integrate back to the free world.”



By: Kaylie Crowe

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