Biden's Marijuana Pardon Excludes Military: Implications and Reform

In response to legal questions regarding a memorandum from president Joe Biden on marijuana and criminal convictions the United State Army released a statement on February 27th, 2024

On Dec. 22, President Biden released a proclamation pardoning all U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who, on or before this date, committed or were convicted of the offense of simple possession, attempted simple possession or use of marijuana. The proclamation does not cover military drug offenses under 10 U.S.C 112a and therefore does not result in a pardon for military personnel, nor does it apply to the civilian drug-testing program (48 CFR 252.223- 7004).

This pardon follows Biden’s Oct. 6, 2022, statement on marijuana reform, where he introduced a three-step approach for reforming regulations involving marijuana use and possession. With the issuance of this pardon, the first step is set in motion. The attorney general issues certificates of pardon to eligible individuals, and then Biden urged governors to grant pardons for state-level offenses.

The president has called on federal health officials to review the federal scheduling status of marijuana, which led a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommendation last year to move the substance to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act, alongside drugs like ketamine, anabolic steroids and Tylenol with codeine.

The president’s mass federal pardon is providing relief to an estimated 6,500 people who have committed federal cannabis possession offenses, as well as thousands of drug war victims in Washington, D.C., the state-level call to action from the president for governors to issue pardons for state marijuana offenses stands to have far greater impact if more governors go along with it, as the vast majority of marijuana convictions have taken place in state courts.

While the president does have the unilateral right to alter certain punishments under the Manual for Courts-Martial, a major change to the Uniform Code of Military Justice would have to be made by Congress. A marijuana possession charge carries a potential penalty of dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay and a two-year maximum punishment, according to the Manual for Courts-Martial. The punishment is often far less in practice.

But some military branches have been workshopping policies that would give drug users a second chance at joining the ranks.

In October, the Air Force's first year of a new THC pilot program -- which would allow some applicants who drug-tested positive for the active compound in marijuana, a chance to retest and possibly enlist -- was more popular than the service expected.

The Air Force anticipated only 50 cases annually when it announced that pilot program. reported in 2023 that the service encountered triple that number, granting 165 waivers after candidates retested and were shown to be free of THC.

Source: US Army Press Release,, Office of the President

More News from Alamogordo
I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is unverified