President Barack Obama's White House put out an email Friday explaining its refusal to react to a We the People petition. The petition's goal was to grant pardon to a man, Chris Williams, facing a potential 80-year prison sentence for growing medical marijuana in Montana, a state where it is legal to do so.
The petition, fully named "Grant a full pardon to Chris Williams, a man facing 80 years in prison for legally growing Medical Marijuana," has garnered 29,536 signatures at the date of this publication.
In order for a We the People petition to elicit an official response from the White House, according to the Terms of Participation, it must pass a threshold of 25,000 signatures within 30 days, which the petition achieved.
In the email released by the White House, technicalities related to pardon law were cited as the reason for a failure to respond to the petition.
"Requests for executive clemency for federal offenses should be directed to the Pardon Attorney, who conducts a review and investigation, and prepares the Department’s recommendation to the President."
Furthermore, the White House pointed out that the Terms of Participation for the We the People platform allowed them to pass on comment for certain petitions.
"The White House does not comment, however, on individual pardon applications. In accordance with this policy and the We the People Terms of Participation -- which explain that the White House may sometimes choose not to respond to petitions addressing certain matters -- the White House declines to comment on the specific case addressed in this petition."
Specifically, the terms state the following concerning what they may or may not respond to:
"To avoid the appearance of improper influence, the White House may decline to address certain procurement, law enforcement, adjudicatory, or similar matters properly within the jurisdiction of federal departments or agencies, federal courts, or state and local government in its response to a petition."
Some may wonder why the petition program exists if the White House may pick and choose which petitions to respond to.