TEXAS, USA — President Joe Biden is pardoning all prior federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana.
The pardons will impact about 6,500 nationwide and thousands in Washington, D.C. However, in Texas, it would ultimately be up to the governor to follow the president’s steps for those convicted by the state of Texas of marijuana offenses.
President Biden can only pardon federal offenses, which is why he’s trying to lean on governors to pardon state violations.
Governor Greg Abbott has already shut down the request from Biden for governors to pardon those who have been charged with simple marijuana possession.
“The current state law here in Texas is that if you possess any usable quantity of marijuana you could be arrested for it,” Jed Silverman, a Houston criminal defense attorney said.
Silverman also serves as the president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association and said possession of marijuana up to 4 ounces could be a class ‘A’ or ‘B’ misdemeanor.
“Beyond 4 ounces it’s a felony offense,” Silverman said.
Abbott, who is locked in a pivotal race for governor against Beto O’Rourke, isn’t changing his stance on criminalizing marijuana. O’Rourke is actively campaigning for cannabis legalization.
“You know the Governor, Lt. Governor and I think even the Attorney General are strongly against any type of further deregulation,” KHOU 11 Political Expert Bob Stein said.
There’s broad support among the majority of Texans who support the legalization of marijuana in some capacity, according to a recent University of Texas at Tyler poll.
But arrests for marijuana possession could come down to which jurisdiction someone is in. In Harris County, there are diversion programs for people with a small amount of marijuana.
“Other more rural jurisdictions, they still prosecute as they are on the books,” Silverman said.
Just weeks away from the midterms, the move by the White House is said to be intended to remove barriers to employment, housing and educational opportunities.
“There may be a constituency out there who cares deeply about recreational uses of marijuana and the governor and the president’s decision to pardon people who’ve been convicted of it might be a positive,” Stein said.
The Texas governor does not have the unilateral authority to pardon anyone that he chooses. Pardons must first go through the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles system with a recommendation to the governor.