TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — President Joe Biden is issuing an executive order calling for pardons of thousands of federal convictions for simple marijuana possession. Biden is also urging all governors to do the same, since decriminalization at the federal level does not change the majority of marijuana convictions — those are at the state level.
“I though it was a wonderful, wonderful day,” said Dr. David Berger. “Thousands of people’s lives have been destroyed from simple possession.”
There is renewed hope for removing the stigma of cannabis on the side of medical marijuana advocates after the president’s announcement of incoming pardons.
“People are unable to get better jobs or get jobs, get housing, higher education, all because of their possession,” Dr. Berger explained. “Something that most people nowadays recognize as not something that should have that level of restriction on.”
Berger owns the Wholistic ReLeaf Medical Cannibis Clinic in Tampa. He hopes Biden’s move will help jumpstart a push toward rescheduling marijuana out its Schedule I categorization, putting it up there with fentanyl and heroin.
“If they can reschedule it,” Berger said. “That will also allow for research to be done.”
Currently there is little to no research allowed on the effects and impacts of marijuana according to Dr. Berger, except for a specific strain grown in Mississippi.
“I’m glad to see this is happening,” said defense attorney Joshua Sheridan. “I think it’s way overdue.”
Sheridan has represented hundreds of people on marijuana charges at county courthouses. He said sometimes people don’t realize what a medical marijuana can and cannot buy them in terms of items or amounts.
“There’s attorneys that use marijuana, judges that use marijuana, police officers that use marijuana,” Sheridan said. “Employers that use marijuana and then turning around and people are losing their employment because of this.”
During a few years on the other side of the aisle he prosecuted his fair share in the 6th Circuit.
“Marijuana, because it’s illegal, what do we do?” Sheridan asked. “We prosecute it. What do we do? We convict people.”
He said he begrudgingly accepted the rules during his time as prosecutor.
“Up until recently,” Sheridan explained. “The way that these had been prosecuted is if you were convicted, not only did you have conviction on your record, but you got your driver’s license taken away from you.”
While there aren’t many federal convictions for simple marijuana possession, Sheridan doesn’t see that as the point of the presidential pardon.
“I think it’s a kind of signal to the states on some level of an intent of which way the government is headed,” Sheridan said. “So it’ll be interesting to see what the states do now.”
Will it work?
“State level — 100 percent,” Sheridan said. “Florida — different question.”
Sheridan said that with a conservative in the governor’s mansion in Florida, he thinks it’s unlikely state-level convictions of simple marijuana possession will be overturned, especially given DeSantis’s name in the presidential candidate hat.
8 On Your Side reached out to Governor Ron DeSantis’s office but has yet to hear back. Charlie Crist called Biden’s decision a major step forward and said he will push for full legalization if elected.