President Joe Biden is pardoning thousands of Americans convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana under federal law. His administration is taking steps toward decriminalizing marijuana and addressing charging practices that disproportionately impact people of color.
Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana - It’s time that we right these wrongs
The move, nevertheless, is remarkable for Biden, who had written some of the tough-on-crime drug laws that advocates note led to current incarceration rates. Biden was the only Democratic presidential candidate in 2020 who did not support federal descheduling, which would essentially make marijuana legal at the federal level.
The administration had also said Biden wants to reschedule cannabis to a Schedule II drug — which would make it easier to study — legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize minor possession. Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, like heroin and LSD. The Justice Department said it will work with the Department of Health and Human Services to review how marijuana is classified under federal law.
"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.
Pardons for simple possession and reclassifying marijuana will make a huge difference in the lives of many black and brown people, especially those living at the intersections of race and poverty.
“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.”
The proclamation applies only to federal convictions, including D.C. Code offenses, and does not apply to convictions under state or local law. Read the full statement here.
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