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Biden’s Marijuana Pardons Affect 46 People Convicted in South Dakota

President Joe Biden’s pardon of pot possessors appears to scrub federal convictions from 6,577 citizens’ records. The U.S. Sentencing Commission’s tally supports the argument that marijuana laws contribute to disproportionate punishment of non-white Americans (and, if you want to go there, men):

United States Sentencing Commission, analysis of federal convictions for marijuana possession, released 2022.10.13.
United States Sentencing Commission, analysis of federal convictions for marijuana possession, released 2022.10.13.

Only 46 of those pardoned citizens were convicted in federal court in South Dakota over the last 30 years. But that’s more convictions than in any adjoining state except for Wyoming, which had 116. Minnesota had the fewest, with 3, followed by Nebraska with 5, Iowa with 19, and Montana and North Dakota with 21 each.

South Dakota’s federal marijuana possession conviction rate proportional to current population was the ninth-highest in the country, with 5.14 convictions per 100,000 people. The national rate was half that, 2.57 per 100K pop. North Dakota was just a little above that national rate; Alabama was just a little below:

State/Territory Convictions population conv/ 100Kpop
Virgin Islands 19 87,146 21.80
Wyoming 116 578,803 20.04
Arizona 1,451 7,276,316 19.94
Virginia 872 8,642,274 10.09
New Mexico 180 2,115,877 8.51
District of Columbia 39 670,050 5.82
Oklahoma 214 3,986,639 5.37
Utah 177 3,337,975 5.30
South Dakota 46 895,376 5.14
Kentucky 222 4,509,394 4.92
North Mariana Islands 2 47,329 4.23
New Jersey 378 9,267,130 4.08
California 1,559 39,237,836 3.97
Kansas 115 2,934,582 3.92
Texas 1,015 29,527,941 3.44
Georgia 356 10,799,566 3.30
Louisiana 136 4,624,047 2.94
North Dakota 21 774,948 2.71
Alabama 128 5,039,877 2.54
Guam 4 168,801 2.37
North Carolina 245 10,551,162 2.32
Vermont 13 645,570 2.01
Montana 21 1,104,271 1.90
West Virginia 30 1,782,959 1.68
Maine 19 1,372,247 1.38
Hawaii 19 1,441,553 1.32
South Carolina 68 5,190,705 1.31
Michigan 125 10,050,811 1.24
Tennessee 85 6,975,218 1.22
Ohio 143 11,780,017 1.21
Colorado 67 5,812,069 1.15
Washington 85 7,738,692 1.10
New York 191 19,835,913 0.96
Arkansas 28 3,025,891 0.93
Arkansas 27 3,025,891 0.89
Maryland 54 6,165,129 0.88
New Hampshire 11 1,388,992 0.79
Missouri 46 6,168,187 0.75
Florida 144 21,781,128 0.66
Delaware 6 1,003,384 0.60
Iowa 19 3,193,079 0.60
Idaho 11 1,900,923 0.58
Nevada 17 3,143,991 0.54
Pennsylvania 49 12,964,056 0.38
Indiana 24 6,805,985 0.35
Wisconsin 20 5,895,908 0.34
Connecticut 10 3,605,597 0.28
Nebraska 5 1,963,692 0.25
Mississippi 6 2,949,965 0.20
Oregon 8 4,246,155 0.19
Rhode Island 1 1,095,610 0.09
Illinois 11 12,671,469 0.09
Massachusetts 6 6,984,723 0.09
Minnesota 3 5,707,390 0.05
Puerto Rico 1 3,263,584 0.03
USA+territories 8,668 337,753,823 2.57

South Dakota’s relatively high rate of federal marijuana convictions should prompt some investigation of why our U.S. Attorneys have been avid in prosecuting pot and which people (our Lakota siblings?) have been so avidly targeted. But 46 convictions total over 30 years means not many people convicted in South Dakota are freer now thanks to this particular pardon.


  1. larry kurtz 2022-10-15

    Of course, most people convicted of federal cannabis offenses in South Dakota are Indigenous American men.

    A plank of the Southern Strategy seeking to assuage poor white people in the wake of the civil rights movement, the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ declared by the Nixon White House, then institutionalized by the Reagan and Clinton Administrations, redefined caste in the United States becoming a policy tool for the mass incarceration of non-white men.

  2. bearcreekbat 2022-10-15

    A key reason why there may be more federal drug violation and possession convictions of Native Americans than non-Native individuals is because the federal government has exclusive criminal jurisdiction to prosecute most crimes committed on SD’s reservations by Native Americans (Tribes have concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute some offenses).

  3. grudznick 2022-10-15

    We all knew Mr. President Uncle Joe Biden was a druggie and a scofflaw. I want to know if my close personal friend Lar can freely travel between the states now or must still slink in undercover to visit ol’ grudznick.

  4. grudznick 2022-10-15

    Well, at least I know my good friend Bob can once again road-trip with me to Vegas and Scottsbluff, like the old days.

  5. M 2022-10-16

    I wonder how many people did time for ingesting alcohol during prohibition. I heard some of my Irish relative were chased out of Kentucky for making it, and fortunately my grandfather made it to S.D. safely.

    In this area of S.D. there are many sent away for ingesting meth and the cops make a big deal out of busting them. Then, after their shifts, they go home and drink a fifth or two. Noem says the meth comes from below the border, but it would cost a fortune. The meth is made here as demonstrated at a school I worked at, yet the makers of meth are rarely caught. Why?

    On the other hand, Mary jane comes in from all over and it’s everywhere. The users get busted with small amounts and it impresses the old people and boozers. Young native males here are more likely to get arrested for anything because they are more visible. Women hide the problem better, a survival method we’ve learned over the years although native women incarcerations are increasing at an alarming rate. Right now, I know 3 former female students in prison in Pierre. Oh, got to fill those prisons up so we can build 2 more.

    Law enforcement has to retrain their brain and invest in a new mission. They work for us, we pay them, and we should have a say in what their jobs should entail. If they were really doing their jobs, there would be less arrests. Think about prevention, alternative policing methods, human relations training, and treatments for addictions. I want to invest in these young people who are unfairly thrown in the slammer.

    I hope the 46 persons released in S.D. will be given a chance to have a life. My advice is to move to another state while they have the chance.

  6. Loti 2022-10-16

    Whats Concerning is that some articles read that more larger prisons are being made and women prisoners are expected to grow. Seems many Native women are caught using Meth when they should be going to Rehab or treatment. But hey, KN “is on it” as she jets around freely.

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