President Joe Biden Pardons Marijuana Possession Convicts
President Joe Biden announced on Thursday, October 6th that he had pardoned people convicted of simple marijuana possession by executive order. Simple possession of marijuana is a low-level offense that is not in the same category as the sale and trafficking of marijuana. The pardons will reportedly affect approximately 6,500 people.
“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. “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.”
Additionally, Biden called on governors to follow in his footsteps by pardoning simple marijuana convictions in their states. He also called on the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to study the scheduling of marijuana under federal law, with calls for rescheduling. Marijuana is labeled a Schedule 1 narcotic, meaning it is grouped with LSD and heroin as drugs with no medical use and a high potential to be abused.
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The Department of Justice vowed to act as quickly as possible to enact the president’s order. “The Justice Department will expeditiously administer the President’s proclamation, which pardons individuals who engaged in simple possession of marijuana, restoring political, civil, and other rights to those convicted of that offense,” the department said. “In coming days, the Office of the Pardon Attorney will begin implementing a process to provide impacted individuals with certificates of pardon.”
The move was seen as overdue with advocates having pushed for pardons for months. “There is no reason that people should be saddled with a criminal record – preventing them from obtaining employment, housing, and countless other opportunities – for something that is already legal in 19 states and DC and decriminalized in 31 states,” said the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Kassandra Frederique. Marijuana is becoming legal in more states. According to New Frontier Data, a marijuana research firm, the legal marijuana industry will see sales of about $32 billion in 2022. Projections show that the industry will see revenues of $63 billion.