Mike Beebe, the Arkansas Democrat whose term as governor is expiring early next year, has formally announced that he plans to pardon his own son for a 2003 marijuana conviction. The plan was first reported last month by local media.
It's perfectly reasonable to believe that dealing marijuana — which is now legal in multiple states — shouldn't make someone a felon. But there were 5,876 people arrested for marijuana possession in 2003, the year Beebe's son Kyle was charged. And thousands of Arkansans — every one of which was someone's son or daughter — have been arrested for marijuana possession every year since then. If Kyle deserves mercy — and he does — then so do others convicted under the same laws.
To be fair, his own son isn't the only marijuana offender Beebe has pardoned. But as governor, Beebe could pardon a lot more people who violated the same laws his own son did. Beebe told local TV station KATV that "it's tough on the families" when a son faces drug charges. He could right that wrong for a lot more Arkansas families if he wanted to.
Some people wind up in prison for years after doing the same thing Kyle did. An ACLU study found that black Arkansans were 3 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as whites. And even in Colorado, where marijuana was recently legalized, people in prison for previous marijuana possession charges aren't being released from prison.
Pardoning people harmed by overly strict marijuana laws is a great idea. It should be happening a lot more — in Arkansas, Colorado, and across the country.
Correction: This article originally suggested that Beebe has not pardoned marijuana offenders other than his son. In fact, a number of others have received pardons for marijuana-related offenders, though many others have not.