Biden Announces Pardon on Federal Marijuana Charges
President Joe Biden announced Thursday his granting of a pardon to anyone convicted of marijuana possession under federal law. He also strongly encouraged governors to follow suit in state cases of simple possession.
According to CNBC, the president addressed the ongoing difficulties that people convicted on possession charges face, saying, “There are thousands of people who were convicted for marijuana possession who may be denied employment, housing or educational opportunities as a result.”
Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule One substance under federal guidelines, considered to be held for the most dangerous of narcotics. This classification places marijuana alongside heroin and LSD, a comparison that Biden says “makes no sense.”
The president opened his historic statement with the acknowledgment that “no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” an increasingly common view held by much of the country in 2022.
As of today, “37 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, and 19 states have legal adult-use marijuana,” according to Politico.
A major aspect of this announcement is the vastly disproportionate incarceration rates among people of color. The White House’s statement highlights the harsh reality that “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.”
According to the ACLU, marijuana arrests “account for over half of all drug arrests in the United States.” Highlighted further is the emphasis of Biden’s point, the fact that “despite roughly equal usage rates, Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana.”
The pardon directly impacts over 6,500 people with prior possession convictions and seeks to impact several thousand more under additional D.C. law.
The announcement of these pardons reiterated the impact that these arrests continue to have across America. “Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” argues Biden. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.”