Biden to commute sentences of 11 nonviolent drug offenders

President Joe Biden announced plans Friday to commute the sentences of nearly a dozen people “who are serving disproportionately long sentences for non-violent drug offenses.”

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The 11 people are serving sentences for distributing or conspiring to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine and crack cocaine, according to the White House. They are serving decades in prison, with four sentenced to life behind bars.

“All of them would have been eligible to receive significantly lower sentences if they were charged with the same offense today,” Biden said Friday in a statement.

A White House official told The Washington Post that the people serving long sentences for crack cocaine convictions would not have faced the same amount of time in prison if they had been convicted of comparable powder cocaine crimes, “a sentencing discrepancy that is not supported by science and that disproportionately affects Black communities.”

“America was founded on the principle of equal justice under law,” the president said. “Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect this core value that makes our communities safer and stronger.”

Biden said he is also issuing a proclamation to pardon Americans convicted of or facing charges for using or possessing marijuana on certain federal lands.

“Criminal records for marijuana use and possession have imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities,” he said. “Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs.”

The announcements come after Biden pardoned thousands of federal convictions for simple marijuana possession in 2022.

Twenty-three states, two U.S. territories and Washington, D.C., have legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use by adults, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Federally, the drug is classified among the most dangerous substances alongside heroin and LSD.

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