As many of you have probably seen, President Biden issued a pardon on October 6, 2022, for all US citizens (and lawful permanent residents) who have committed the offense of simple possession of marijuana under federal law.
Biden’s pardon does not affect state-law convictions for simple possession of marijuana – the president only has the authority to pardon federal offenses.
Who will benefit from the presidential pardon, and what can you do if you have a simple possession of marijuana conviction in South Carolina?
Biden’s Pardon for Simple Possession of Marijuana Offenses
On October 6, President Biden granted a blanket pardon to all US citizens and lawful permanent residents who 1) have committed the offense of simple possession of marijuana under federal law (these people cannot be charged now under federal law for any past simple possession offenses) and 2) who have been convicted of simple possession of marijuana under federal law:
Acting pursuant to the grant of authority in Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution of the United States, I, Joseph R. Biden Jr., do hereby grant a full, complete, and unconditional pardon to (1) all current United States citizens and lawful permanent residents who committed the offense of simple possession of marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, as currently codified at 21 U.S.C. 844 and as previously codified elsewhere in the United States Code, or in violation of D.C. Code 48–904.01(d)(1), on or before the date of this proclamation, regardless of whether they have been charged with or prosecuted for this offense on or before the date of this proclamation; and (2) all current United States citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been convicted of the offense of simple possession of marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, as currently codified at 21 U.S.C. 844 and as previously codified elsewhere in the United States Code, or in violation of D.C. Code 48–904.01(d)(1); which pardon shall restore to them full political, civil, and other rights.
Who gets the benefit of this pardon, and what can you do if your conviction for simple possession of marijuana was in SC state court?
Who Gets the Benefit of the Pardon?
The pardon applies to persons who have 1) committed the offense of simple possession of marijuana or 2) been convicted of simple possession of marijuana under federal law.
Because the president only has the authority to pardon federal offenses, the pardon will only apply to persons who have committed or been convicted of the offense under federal law, which includes convictions in 1) the US federal courts and 2) the courts for the District of Columbia.
It only applies to US citizens and lawful permanent residents. While some undoubtedly pushed for pardons for undocumented immigrants as well, the administration decided (likely to avoid political attacks) to limit the pardon to lawful US residents.
The practical, direct effect of the pardon is extremely limited, considering that federal law enforcement is rarely involved in the prosecution of simple possession offenses (there were fewer than 800 marijuana possession cases in federal courts last year, not including the District of Columbia).
The pardon does not apply to:
- Any person who was charged with simple possession of marijuana in SC state courts,
- Any person with convictions for possession with intent to distribute, distribution, trafficking, or conspiracy charges in federal court,
- Any drug offense other than simple possession of marijuana under federal law, or
- Undocumented immigrants.
If you have a conviction for simple possession of marijuana or another drug offense in SC state court, can you still get a pardon from the State of South Carolina?
Can You Get an Expungement or a Pardon for Simple Possession of Marijuana Offenses in SC?
If Biden’s pardon does not apply to you, you may still be eligible for a state pardon or an expungement of your offense under SC state law.
Expungements for Marijuana Offenses in SC
If your only criminal record is a first-offense simple possession of marijuana charge, you don’t need a pardon. You can get the conviction expunged completely from your record three years after the date of completion of your sentence.
Under SC’s most recent amendments to our expungement laws, you can get any first-offense simple possession conviction expunged after three years – marijuana, prescription drugs, cocaine, or heroin, it doesn’t matter.
Under SC law, you can even get possession with intent to distribute charges – for any type of controlled substance – expunged, although you will need to wait 20 years before applying for your expungement.
What if you are not eligible for an expungement under SC law?
Pardons for Marijuana Offenses in SC
If you have a conviction for a more serious drug offense like distribution or drug trafficking, you cannot get an expungement, but you may be able to apply for a pardon under SC law.
A pardon does not “erase” the offense from your record, but 1) your criminal history will show that you have been pardoned and 2) your civil rights (including your right to own a firearm, get a concealed weapons permit (CWP), and hold occupational licenses) will be restored.
Criminal Defense, Pardon, and Expungement Lawyers in Myrtle Beach, SC
Although Biden’s pardon may not help you at all, the SC criminal defense, expungement, and pardon attorneys at Coastal Law want to help you clean up your record.
If you have convictions that may be eligible for expungement or pardon, call now at (843) 488-5000 or fill out our online form to find out how we can help.