ACLU Applauds Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s Marijuana Pardons, Calls on Other Governors to Follow
Urges action following President Biden and Oregon Governor Brown’s marijuana clemency announcements
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 21, 2022
NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union applauds Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s action today to pardon approximately 45,000 people with marijuana convictions under a state law that is no longer in effect. Additionally, Governor Brown’s action will forgive almost $14 million in fines and fees associated with past marijuana convictions that continue to burden people.
Governor Brown’s action follows an important step by President Biden last month to pardon thousands of people nationwide and in the District of Columbia with federal convictions for marijuana possession.
The failed policies of the war on drugs — including harsh sentences, overcriminalization and surveillance of Black and brown communities — have perpetuated racial disparities in the criminal legal system and contributed to mass incarceration. Voters in Oregon legalized marijuana in 2014, and now, 21 states have legalized marijuana. Today’s announcement is one more step towards justice for people who were convicted under outdated laws that have since changed.
"We are grateful for Governor Brown's use of clemency as a powerful tool to address our state's outdated and racially-biased practices.”
The use of categorical clemency — that is, granting clemency not person-by-person, but to a group of people who fit certain criteria — is a way to rectify the harms of the war on drugs and create systemic change in our criminal legal system.
The ACLU has long supported the use of clemency as a tool to correct injustice, and launched The Redemption Campaign in 2020, a first-of-its-kind nationwide effort to release 50,000 people from federal and state prisons by executing campaigns that encourage officials to use their existing clemency powers in new and transformational ways. Through the campaign, the ACLU has worked with governors and the President to confront mass incarceration and racial injustice by granting commutations to large groups of people who are unjustifiably imprisoned.
In response to Governor Brown’s action...
Cynthia W. Roseberry, acting director of the ACLU’s Justice Division, issued the following statement:
“Clemency is a powerful tool to correct injustices and provide a second chance to thousands of our friends, family members, and neighbors. People are not disposable. Clemency is a message to the recipient that we believe they are not. For the grantor, clemency is a way to begin to correct past wrongs, while paving the way for a better, safer, more equitable future for our communities.
“By embracing the power of clemency, Governor Brown and President Biden have taken significant first steps in addressing unfair sentences and racial disparities in our criminal legal system. But we cannot stop here. We call on other governors with clemency authority to correct past wrongs, and embrace the power of redemption.”
Sandy Chung, executive director of ACLU of Oregon, issued the following statement:
“As Oregonians, we have called for policies that create real safety and wellness for all our communities. The path to justice is through our values of equity, care and humanity — not vengeance or criminalization. We are grateful for Governor Brown's use of clemency as a powerful tool to address our state's outdated and racially-biased practices.”
Jessica Maravilla, policy director of ACLU of Oregon, issued the following statement:
“Fines and fees imposed by the criminal legal system create barriers to housing, schooling, and employment. Criminal-court fees thwart rehabilitation and fail to improve public safety. For low-income communities and people of color, they can result in continued entanglement in the criminal legal system. The Governor’s forgiveness of $14,000,000 in fines and fees is a significant step in addressing unjust systemic burdens created by prior convictions — especially, in this case, for a crime that no longer exists.”
About ACLU Oregon
The ACLU of Oregon is an affiliate of the national ACLU which has affiliates in 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. The ACLU of Oregon is a nonpartisan, nonprofit membership organization with more than 28,000 members statewide. The organization works in the courts, in the legislature, and in communities to defend and advance our civil liberties and civil rights under the U.S. and Oregon constitutions and the laws of the United States and Oregon.