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Sen. Capito comments on Elizabeth Warren’s request for Biden to pardon all nonviolent cannabis offenders

MORGANTOWN – Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., recently joined with two other senators to ask President Biden to pardon everyone who’s ever been convicted of a nonviolent cannabis offense – whether formerly or currently behind bars.

In light of that request, The Dominion Post contacted Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin, and Rep. David McKinley to ask them their opinion of Warren’s request and on a few other cannabis matters.

Warren joined with Sens. Edward Markey, also D-Mass., and Jeffrey Merkley, D-Ore., to write to Biden on Nov. 9. They cite a campaign statement Biden made in November 2019: “Number one, I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period. And I think everyone, anyone who has a record should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out.”

They refer in their letter to “over a century of failed and racist cannabis policies. … America’s cannabis policies have punished black and brown communities for too long.

They continue, “These policies are increasingly out of step with the views of the American public.” The note that nearly 7 in 10 Americans believe that cannabis should be legalized; that 18 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use, all in the past decade; 27 states plus D.C. have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis; and 36 states (including West Virginia), three territories, and D.C. have allowed for the medical use of cannabis.

They say, “Such a pardon—combined with your leadership on an accessible expungement process to formally clear the criminal records of those affected—would mark the beginning of a reversal of decades of ineffective and discriminatory cannabis policies, allowing Americans to return to their communities, find housing and jobs, and rebuild their lives without the burdens of an unjustly imposed criminal record.”

The Dominion Post asked the three lawmakers about their view on the request, about federally descheduling cannabis so that states can develop and enforce their own laws, and about decriminalizing marijuana for recreational use.

Manchin elected not to comment. McKinley’s office was unable to respond in time for publication deadline.

Capito’s office provided a brief statement: “While respecting states’ rights to make decisions in regards to legalization, Sen. Capito also shares the concerns of those in the addiction community about the negative impacts of legalizing recreational cannabis, especially as drugs of all kinds continue to pour in through our southern border and flow into West Virginia’s communities.

“As demonstrated by her vote in support of the FIRST Step Act, which was signed into law in 2018 and has since freed thousands of low-level drug offenders from prison, Sen. Capito believes in second chances for those who want to be contributing members of our society.”

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