Immigrant Defense Project Again Calls on Biden to Extend Marijuana Pardon Protections to Immigrants

December 22, 2023

The Immigrant Defense Project has issued the following statement from Benita Jain, Supervising Attorney, in response to President Biden’s December 22, 2023 proclamation granting pardons to people convicted of simple possession of marijuana:

President Biden’s announcement today to pardon federal and D.C.-based marijuana possession offenses is a disappointing partial step towards the marijuana justice that the communities harmed by prohibition need and deserve. Just like his first federal pardon proclamation on October 6, 2022, immigrant communities are heartlessly excluded from meaningful relief. 

The President has gone out of his way to exclude some immigrants from pardon eligibility.  And his administration has done nothing to stop immigrants from being separated from their loved ones based on a marijuana conviction. 

The federal government commonly uses marijuana possession to deny or take away a person’s lawful immigration status or access to citizenship. Even immigrants with federal marijuana convictions who are pardoned may remain at risk of detention and deportation. Thousands of immigrants with state convictions also remain at risk, in many cases even after the states have expunged their convictions. 

President Biden has the power to do much more to end the harms of marijuana prohibition, including fully descheduling marijuana, ending deportations based on marijuana convictions and convictions that have been expunged, and working with Congress to pass an inclusive marijuana legalization law that ensures immigrant families and communities are not torn apart based on marijuana-related activity. These concrete steps would give substance to his statement today that “no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the use or possession of marijuana” and that “too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach.” Until then, this proclamation rings hollow for our communities.

At IDP, we’re still fighting for marijuana justice! We know that immigrant communities are safer and more stable when the harms of criminalization are eliminated. Learn more about our work at