The following blog post was drafted by longtime NORML activist Chris Goldstein.

Ten years ago I stood before a federal judge in Philadelphia. The charge was simple possession of marijuana.

My trial was because I smoked a single joint outside during a protest. We were calling for cannabis to be removed from the federal Controlled Substances Act, like alcohol and tobacco.

My sentence was 24-months of supervised probation with weekly THC testing, a $3,000 cash fine, and a permanent criminal record. Pretty harsh for holding less than one gram of weed.

This week, I received a Pardon Certificate for that offense from the President of the United States.

President Biden has fulfilled a key promise and made a critical first step toward amending America’s antiquated and disastrous marijuana laws. For that, I am sincerely grateful.

At NORML, we’ve been working for decades to urge the White House and Congress to end federal marijuana prohibition. These pardons are some of the first tangible signs that our federal government is beginning to declare peace instead of waging an endless war on cannabis consumers.

The Process

The President’s pardon proclamation was publicly announced on October 6, 2022. Of course, such top-tier maneuvering takes time to materialize. It wasn’t until March of 2023 that the applications for  the promised marijuana-related pardons were posted online. I applied right away.

While the President’s intention is clear, the details remain complicated — even for such low-level pardons. There are actually quite a few ways to end up with a federal record for a few grams of marijuana.

Some of the vectors for the possession cases were US citizens having encounters with Border Patrol or the Coast Guard.

Other cases arose from the surprising number of urban areas patrolled by various branches of federal law enforcement. Examples include much of Washington DC or the areas around any federal courthouse.

My case resides in a fairly common pitfall; getting caught by Rangers in a National Park.

The National Park Service (NPS) contains more than 10,000 miles of roads, some of which are major throughways. Much of NPS land covers vast, beautiful forests, plains and mountains that are rather isolated. But, NPS also contains some densely populated public spaces.

It turns out that thousands of people have ended up with a federal record over having a few grams of weed in one of America’s otherwise amazing National Parks.

But, these NPS cases were somehow omitted from the initial 2022 pardons.

Thankfully, President Biden made a second proclamation in December of 2023 specifically covering pardons for all the instances in federal codes that could result in someone getting a record for marijuana possession.

After months of waiting, I had been wondering about the progress of my application. When the second proclamation was released I saw the exact code from my own docket.

From there, it was only a few weeks. My pardon was issued on January 4, 2024 and I was notified on January 22nd.

Next Steps

Reading the certificate for the first time brought a swell of emotions and, specifically, vivid memories from nearly thirty years of activism with NORML. Extraordinarily caring and passionate people have been the backbone of the cannabis reform movement. I feel lucky to be part of this community.

Most of my adult life has been spent working to end cannabis prohibition. It hasn’t been an easy gig. There have been few moments that have knocked us down. Yet, we are a rolling force of victory.

We have always utilized stepping stones to make greater leaps forward. Prisoners must be released. Records must be expunged. States must not be left to battle international corporations on their own.

President Biden has initiated the process to move cannabis from Schedule I into Schedule III. That means our original protest theme is more important than ever.

We deserve a definitive end to federal cannabis prohibition. That only happens when the plant is completely removed from the Controlled Substances Act.

The time for de-scheduling cannabis is right now.

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