When President Biden announced plans to pardon thousands of people with low-level federal marijuana convictions, he asked governors to follow his lead, Politico reports. Republican governors have little reason to be seen as advancing the agenda of an unpopular Democratic president while GOP messaging has focused on runaway inflation and soaring crime rates in the final stretch before Election Day. “I don’t think that it’s going to rise to a high enough level of concern in the short term, and probably not even in the longer term,” said Gregg Peppin, a Republican political strategist in Minnesota who has worked on gubernatorial campaigns. “The battle lines have been hardened as it relates to the issues of this election. … Republicans are campaigning on economic issues and public safety.”
Democrats are unlikely to take significant steps in response to Biden’s directive, for different reasons. The governors most sympathetic to the president’s goal of pardoning those with nonviolent marijuana offenses are way ahead of him, having wiped records or set up systems for people to get their convictions expunged as state lawmakers legalized weed. In New York, some marijuana convictions will be automatically expunged under a law that legalized cannabis last year. In Illinois, Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker issued a blanket pardon for more than 9,000 people in January 2021, about a year after the state legalized recreational weed.