Biden pardons thousands of Marijuana possession charges
Biden, in a statement, said the move reflects his position that “no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.”
President Joe Biden is pardoning thousands of Americans convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana, marking a significant step forward in his administration’s efforts to decriminalize the drug and rectify charging practices that unfairly affect people of color.
The move represents a fundamental change in America’s response to a drug that has been at the center of a clash between culture and policing for more than a half-century.
The pardons will free everyone who has been convicted on federal counts of simple possession since the 1970s. Officials stated that comprehensive data was not accessible, but that between 1992 and 2021, around 6,500 persons were convicted of simple possession, not including legal permanent residents. The pardons will also apply to anyone convicted under District of Columbia drug laws; officials believe that there are thousands of them.
Pardons will not be granted to those convicted of selling or distributing marijuana. Officials also stated that no one is currently serving time in federal prisons simply for marijuana possession. However, the change will assist remove barriers for people attempting to find work, find housing, apply for college, or receive federal benefits.
Mr. Biden stopped short of asking for the complete decriminalization of marijuana, which would require legislation from Congress. However, he stated on Twitter that the federal government still requires “significant controls on marijuana trafficking, marketing, and underage sales.”
Mr. Biden’s actions were part of a long evolution of criminal justice for him, who helped establish a slew of laws that set the basis for mass incarceration during his 36 years in the Senate. On the campaign trail, he apologized for aspects of one of the most draconian policies he had championed, the 1994 crime bill, and he fought for more leniency for nonviolent drug offenders.
He also wants governors to provide comparable pardons to people convicted of state marijuana violations, which account for the vast bulk of marijuana possession cases.
In a statement, Biden said the move reflected his belief that “no one should be imprisoned just for using or having marijuana.”
“Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit,” Biden said in a statement on Thursday afternoon. “Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”
“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,” he said. “My action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions. ”Biden is also directing the secretary of Health and Human Services and the U.S. attorney general to review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.