NKY prosecutor: Biden going for ‘pothead’ vote with marijuana pardons

The reactions from officials in Ohio and Kentucky run the gamut, with one calling Biden’s move a ‘cynical abuse’ of power.
President Joe Biden said Thursday he will pardon people federally convicted of simple...
President Joe Biden said Thursday he will pardon people federally convicted of simple possession marijuana, a move that could help more than 6,5000 Americans.(Richard Vogel, AP)
Published: Oct. 7, 2022 at 6:15 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (Enquirer) - President Joe Biden announced Thursday he will pardon people federally convicted of simple possession of marijuana, a move that could affect an estimated 6,500 Americans.

The president noted that convictions for marijuana possession can lead to being denied employment, housing or educational opportunities, and said Black and brown people have been arrested and convicted at disproportionate rates.

“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” he said in a video announcement. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.”

The Justice Department will issue pardons to those eligible and an implementation process will begin “in coming days,” according to department spokesman Anthony Coley.

Biden encouraged governors to follow his lead, as the vast majority of convictions occur at the state level. Here’s what officials in Ohio and Kentucky have to say.

What does this mean for people in Ohio and Kentucky?

Marijuana possession of less than 100 grams is a minor misdemeanor in Ohio, punishable in some cities by a fine of up to $150. Mandatory prison time only comes into play with marijuana possessions of at least 20 kilograms of marijuana.

It is illegal to possess any amount of marijuana in Kentucky.

Biden’s pardons will only affect those with federal convictions, not anyone convicted of simple possession of marijuana under state law.

What do Ohio officials say?

DeWine reviewing Biden’s request to pardon in Ohio

Through a spokesperson, Gov. Mike DeWine said he’s reviewing Biden’s request to extend pardons on a state level. Ohio doesn’t issue blanket pardons, DeWine’s spokesperson Dan Tierney told The Enquirer, so each person would have to apply individually.

In the past, DeWine, a Republican former prosecutor, has opposed legalizing recreational marijuana.

State Sen. Cecil Thomas: A ‘bold and life-changing step’

State Sen. Cecil Thomas, a former Cincinnati police officer and Cincinnati City Council member, called Biden’s pardons a “bold and life-changing step toward decriminalizing marijuana possession.”

”These pardons will help thousands convicted of simple marijuana possession who have faced barriers to employment, housing and educational opportunities,” the Democrat added, urging Gov. DeWine to “take the same bold approach in Ohio.”

Attorney General Dave Yost: Biden’s pardons ‘political, cynical abuse’ of power

In a tweet, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost slammed Biden’s blanket pardon as “the most political, cynical abuse of the pardon power in history. "

“To abuse the pardon power like this on the doorstep of an election is an astonishing level of cynicism,” he wrote.

Yost, a Republican, supported the medical marijuana law in 2019 and said the federal government should reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II controlled substance, instead of the most-restrictive Schedule I, so more research can be done on the potential harms and benefits of its use.

Nan Whaley, candidate for Ohio governor, supports Biden’s efforts

DeWine’s Democratic challenger and former Dayton mayor Nan Whaley applauded the federal pardons on Twitter and said, if elected, she will work to legalize marijuana in Ohio and expunge the records of those convicted of minor marijuana possession.

Hamilton County Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey: It’s ‘important to be cautious

In a statement, Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey stressed the importance of being cautious when it comes to pardoning marijuana offenses at the federal level.

“Often times there are accompanying crimes that were committed in tandem with marijuana offenses,” she said.

McGuffey said she looks forward to more information about how this will impact state and local incarceration.

What about in Kentucky?

Gov. Andy Beshear ‘looks forward to reviewing’ the details of Biden’s plan

“The governor agrees that no one should be in jail simply because of possession of marijuana,” Gov. Beshear’s spokesperson Scottie Ellis said in a statement. “The White House had not alerted and has not briefed our office on exactly what his pardons may require and the specific details of what they will and will not cover. The governor looks forward to reviewing those details when available in his larger analysis on medical cannabis and how to move forward when the vast majority of Kentuckians demand it.”

Kenton County prosecutor Rob Sanders: Federal pardons are ‘political showmanship’

Rob Sanders, the Kenton County commonwealth’s attorney, said he’s never seen the federal government convict anyone of simple marijuana possession, so Biden’s pardons are just “political showmanship.”

“I think he knows his approval ratings suck and he’s going into the midterms when he’s about to lose both the House and the Senate, and this is just a political stunt in order to get a bunch of potheads to go out and vote Democrat,” he said.

Sanders, a Republican, said he would not support Gov. Beshear extending the pardons on a state level, and that his issue lies with criminal records being expunged.

“I believe that employers should know their potential employees’ history when they’re considering who to hire,” he said. “For instance, if my child’s school was thinking about hiring school bus drivers, they should know who’s got problems with marijuana use.”

Boone County Sheriff Michael Helmig does not support the pardons

Helmig, a Republican, doesn’t support President Biden’s federal pardon, said his spokesperson Major Philip Ridgell. Helmig also would not support Gov. Beshear extending the pardons on a state level.

“Sherrif Helmig does not support the order... Whether it be from the president of the United States of the governor’s office,” Ridgell said.

Boone County Attorney Robert Neace, on the other hand, does

Robert Neace, a Republican, told The Enquirer he approves of President Biden’s federal pardons and would support Gov. Beshear doing the same thing in Kentucky.

“I’ll even go further and say I believe that marijuana should be legalized,” said Neace, whose job includes prosecuting misdemeanors in district court.

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