Ohio governor’s office: Biden request to pardon marijuana convicts won’t work here

President Joe Biden announced yesterday that he is pardoning thousands of Americans convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana under federal law, and encouraged governors to issue similar pardons.

He also directed the secretary of Health and Human Services and the U.S. attorney general to review whether to change how marijuana is classified.

Dan Tierney, press secretary for Gov. Mike DeWine, said that the request doesn’t really apply in Ohio, where state law prohibits blanket pardons. Instead, people have to apply for a pardon individually.

When asked whether the governor would pardon an applicant previously charged with simple marijuana possession, Tierney said there is an “expedited pardon project” but that pardons shouldn’t be based on the offenses but instead on whether the person has reformed.

He also said that Ohio law doesn’t allow jail sentences for possession of less than 100 grams of marijuana, and jail time isn’t required for less than 20 kg of marijuana.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley released a brief statement in response to Biden’s announcement, indicating she would go even further.

“As mayor of Dayton, I led the charge to decriminalize marijuana and said at the time that if the city had the ability to legalize it, we would have,” she said. “When I’m governor, I’ll continue that work, as well as take steps to responsibly expunge the records of individuals previously convicted of minor marijuana possession charges. I am encouraged to hear the administration is following through on its commitment to address criminal justice reform.”

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost reacted to the announcement on social media, saying that while he agrees with reclassifying marijuana, he took issue with the timing of the announcement,

“To be very clear, the statute gives a president power (to) reclassify marijuana administratively,” he said. “President Obama or President Biden could have done this literally at any point. To abuse the pardon power like this on the doorstep of an election is an astonishing level of cynicism.”

Democratic Ohio congressman and senatorial candidate Tim Ryan chimed in with a two-word reaction: “Legalize it.”

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