RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — President Joe Biden is pardoning all people with federal convictions for simple possession of marijuana and has asked governors to do the same on the state level.

But whether Gov. Glenn Youngkin will give out mass pardons to those with state convictions, which in Virginia would likely only act as “a statement of forgiveness,” is unclear.

“The governor’s administration is reviewing President Biden’s executive action,” Youngkin’s spokesperson Macaulay Porter wrote in an email to 8News.

In Virginia, “simple possession” of marijuana — up to an ounce — and limited home cultivation are allowed for those 21 years and older. Despite the law change, retail cannabis sales won’t start until at least 2024 when Virginia’s regulatory system is expected to be set.

Russ Stone, a Richmond attorney, told 8News that a pardon from the governor for possession convictions is a statement of forgiveness but “doesn’t wipe records clean.”

Hundreds of thousands of records for misdemeanor simple possession of marijuana have been sealed in Virginia since cannabis was decriminalized in 2020. Lawmakers passed legislation to automatically expunge such records, but it won’t go into effect until 2025.

Sealing records keep them from being accessed by most people, including employers and landlords. Biden addressed the barriers people with prior convictions for simply possessing marijuana face in his announcement Thursday.

“There are thousands of people who have prior Federal convictions for marijuana possession, who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result,” Biden said in a statement. “My action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions.”

“I’m very excited,” Chelsea Higgs Wise, the executive director of the advocacy group Marijuana Justice, said of Biden’s move. She praised the president’s announcement, but noted that it came after advocacy groups pushed for Biden to act on the issue.

Higgs Wise added she’s encouraged about the pardons, but hopes the latest move “is seen as the floor and not the ceiling.” She said while people may not be serving time currently on possession charges, there are many people incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses.

In a presentation to the Virginia Cannabis Oversight Commission last October, Higgs Wise and Gracie Burger, the state policy director at Last Prisoner Project, shared that as of Aug. 31, 2021, there were 10 people incarcerated in Virginia on a controlling marijuana offense.

Higgs Wise also shared concerns with steps Virginia has taken since marijuana possession was legalized, including adding a penalty for those caught with more than four ounces in public.

The state budget approved this year makes it a misdemeanor to carry more than four ounces of cannabis but less than a pound in public.

A first offense is a Class 3 misdemeanor, which will leave those found guilty with a criminal record and up to a $500 fine, and a second or subsequent offense is now a Class 2 misdemeanor, which could bring up to six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.

Virginia Democrats applauded Biden’s decision to issue mass pardons, with Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) calling it “a monumental step forward.”

“People should not be in prison for simple possession of marijuana. These policies have always disproportionately affected minorities,” Del. Rasoul wrote in a tweet.

The reaction was far different from Virginia House Republicans. The caucus tweeted that “Democrats on the ballot in November should be thrilled” with the move, teasing Virginia House Democrats with a reference to last year’s election where the GOP took control of the chamber.

“Just look how well that worked for @VAHouseDems majority in 2021! Oh… right.”