Expect only a few presidential marijuana pardons in Nebraska

Oct. 7, 2022, 5 p.m. ·

Marijuana and Pipe
Marijuana and a pipe. (Nebraska Public Media file photo)

The US Attorney for the District of Nebraska scrambled to determine how many presidential pardons could be issued for those convicted of marijuana possession under federal law.

An official with the office expected only a handful of people would be affected in this state, once a tally is made. The Federal Public Defenders office, which represents individuals unable to provide their own attorney, could not recall handling a simple possession case in decades.

The President’s proclamation specified there would be no pardon for “any other offense, including possession of other controlled substances” or for distribution and sale of cannabis.

Nor does Biden's action apply to cases filed by local officials.

In Nebraska, first offense possession of an ounce or less only warrants a small fine. Defense Attorney Bel Island from Scottsbluff says the President's action seems in line with the attitude of many Nebraska county attorneys and law enforcement agencies who more and more often give simple possession cases a lower priority.

He pointed out attitudes have changed since Colorado took the first step toward legalizing cannabis in 2012. “It just seems like there's been a real change in perception of marijuana, and even of the general public, in juries you see the attitude is not as strong against using marijuana as it may have been in the past,” Island said.

Nebraska's Attorney General, Doug Peterson, released a joint statement with Governor Ricketts condemning the presidential pot pardons, calling it "exactly the wrong direction for the country."

Two states bordering Nebraska, South Dakota and Missouri, have marijuana legalization on the ballot in the November election.