Immediately after President Joe Biden announced last week that he would pardon thousands of people convicted of simple marijuana charges in the U.S., a spokesperson for Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said that he would not issue pardons in his state, in spite of the president urging governors across the country to do so.
Biden announced the pardons on Thursday, noting that “too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana.”
“It’s time that we right these wrongs,” he added.
Biden’s action is limited to federal prosecutions, and won’t affect those who have been found guilty of state laws relating to cannabis. The president encouraged governors to issue their own pardons for those convicted of simple possession of the drug.
But shortly after Biden’s announcement, Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze suggested that the Texas governor won’t be issuing pardons, even if the state’s pardoning board recommends that he do so.
State law requires the Board of Pardons and Paroles to vote in favor of recommending pardons before the governor can grant them. Even so, Abbott would likely reject such recommendations, Eze said.
“Texas is not in the habit of taking criminal justice advice from the leader of the defund police party and someone who has overseen a criminal justice system run amuck with cashless bail and a revolving door for violent criminals,” Eze said in reaction to Biden’s announcement.
Despite Eze’s claims, Biden isn’t in favor of defunding the police, a move that would reallocate police department funds to social spending programs so that communities could have the resources to address issues at their roots instead of relying on oppressive systems of policing. Far right conservatives have also purposefully misrepresented cash bail reforms in the run-up to the 2022 midterm races.
Abbott is running for another term in office this fall. His Democratic opponent, former congressman Beto O’Rourke, is in favor of “expung[ing] the records of those arrested for marijuana possession,” according to his campaign page.
O’Rourke also favors legalizing marijuana in the state. His website says that legalizing the drug could result in $1 billion in revenues for Texas, which could be used to reduce “criminal justice costs to invest in public schools and reduce property taxes.”
Several recent polls show that O’Rourke is currently behind Abbott, but issues relating to cannabis — including legalization or pardons for those with simple possessions on their record — could help the Democrat in the final weeks of the election season, as 55 percent of registered voters in Texas support legalizing marijuana for recreational use, according to a poll conducted in August.