President Joe Biden Thursday announced a sweeping pardon for all prior federal simple possession of marijuana offenses and tasked federal officials with reviewing the drug’s controlled substance classification.

“No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said.

While Biden’s decision forgives convictions under federal and District of Columbia code, the president urged governors to follow his lead and waive simple possession of marijuana convictions in their states and local jurisdictions.

View post on X

Gov. Larry Hogan’s spokesperson, Michael Ricci, said Thursday the governor’s office “will review the details of the president’s announcement.”

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

But Maryland voters won’t have to wait for Hogan or his successor to make the decision because the choice whether to forgive — and even expunge — simple possession of marijuana offenses is up to them as soon as November.

Earlier this year, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation that put not only legalizing small amounts of recreational marijuana on the November ballot, but also the resentencing, release and expungement of simple marijuana possession convictions.

If the November referendum, also known as Question 4, passes, anyone currently being held in a state prison or local detention center on a simple possession conviction can file a motion requesting they be released starting Jan. 1, 2023, if that was their only conviction.

Additionally, the law would automatically expunge a prior conviction where possession of marijuana was the only offense. This would also take effect on Jan. 1. If simple marijuana possession was one of many convictions, a motion can be filed to request expungement of just the marijuana conviction.

Baltimore City Democrat Del. Luke Clippinger sponsored the legislation that put the referendum on the ballot. If passed, the automatic expungement of simple marijuana possession could impact thousands of Marylanders, he said.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“It will mean that those convictions won’t stand in their way when they’re looking for jobs or housing or other services and for that reason it is a very big deal,” Clippinger said.

Although Clippinger had not thoroughly examined the Biden administration’s proposal, he said the possible downgrading of marijuana’s federal classification could “dramatically change the conversation.”

Currently, marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, the most tightly controlled federal drug class. Changing its classification could allow more people across the country access to marijuana for medical uses and allow federal, state and local governments to spend resources elsewhere instead of on law enforcement efforts to control marijuana use and sales.

“We as a country have been waiting for the federal government to take a stand and reevaluate how we view this substance,” he said.

The November referendum will also give Maryland voters the chance to decide whether recreational marijuana becomes legal for those aged 21 and older starting next year.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

In a September survey by Goucher College Poll conducted in partnership with The Baltimore Banner and WYPR, 59% of respondents said they would vote in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana use.