Local impact explainer on Presidential pardon for federal marijuana possession

(ABC 6 News) – President Biden announced Thursday that he will pardon 6,500 people with a federal marijuana possession conviction, but the pardon will not affect people in Minnesota.

President Biden tweeted Thursday, “no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.”

Many people in the community agree.

“I think that states should follow suit with what Biden did,” said Ashley Eikren, a student at the University of Minnesota Rochester.

Another classmate agreed.

“If you have pounds, that makes sense, but getting stopped by a police officer and you just have a little bit, I don’t think you should be charged with something just for that,” said Dagon Brett, who also attends the University of Minnesota Rochester.

It is not just students who agree either.

“I don’t think people should be put in jail for that offense it’s just odd to me,” said Chris Giuliano, a Mayo Clinic employee.

However, Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem says possession of marijuana in Minnesota is not an issue.

“Possessing small amounts of marijuana in Minnesota is not a crime, it hasn’t been for 30 plus years,” Ostrem explained. “There’s probably almost nobody in the state of Minnesota in prison or jail for possessing a small amount of marijuana. Now that’s not to say they might be charged with something else and possession or sale of marijuana but simply on that charge, that just doesn’t happen.”

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Olmsted County Sheriff, Kevin Torgerson, agrees. He says comments like those from the President are misleading and dangerous.

“It’s a sham, it’s not the truth and it’s not real,” Sheriff Torgerson said. “It’s just embarrassing that people at our highest levels are making those kinds of statements and not really looking at the real facts.”

Sheriff Torgerson also adds that when law enforcement finds someone with a small amount of marijuana on them, virtually nothing happens, “a little bit of dope in the pocket is not even worth dealing with, our deputies are just throwing it away.”

It does, however, become a crime when someone is caught with a larger amount of marijuana. Because then, it can be linked to drug sales, and those are the people who are in prison, according to Sheriff Torgerson.

According to Ostrem, the President’s executive order will allow for thousands of people to be released from custody, but unlike what many people think, it is not off of their record.

In order to wipe their records clean, it would need be expunged. That, Ostrem says, is the big misconception with all of this.

As for this new announcement from the President, local officials say it will not change much here in Minn.

“It’s a great political move, how impactful it is remains to be seen,” added Ostrem.