President Biden said Thursday that he would pardon all past criminal convictions of simple marijuana possession and ask federal officials to reconsider how the substance is categorized.
The President urged states to follow suit while maintaining restrictions on human trafficking, marketing, and underage sales. President Biden said that sending individuals to prison for having marijuana in their possession has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for behavior that many states no longer ban. Criminal records for marijuana possession have also placed unnecessarily restrictive hurdles to job, housing, and educational possibilities.
In addition to 19 states and Washington, D.C., marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but President Biden’s actions are a significant step toward decriminalizing it. Most people are convicted in state courts rather than federal courts for basic marijuana possession. However, pardons and other federal government actions can carry significant symbolic weight, prompting hesitant states and towns to follow.
Several polls have found that the moves are popular with most Americans during the final weeks of the close House and Senate races.
However, the actions have become a talking topic for some Republicans. The Republican Study Committee, a conservative House caucus, announced its agenda last week, which includes opposition to marijuana legalization. Some Republicans in the Senate are also opposed to the move.
The measures might lead to claims that the Biden administration is soft on crime when growing crime rates in some cities and localities have become a campaign issue.
In the middle of a crime surge and on the verge of a recession, Joe Biden is issuing blanket pardons to drug offenders—many of whom pleaded down from more serious crimes, stated Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) in a tweet Thursday.
According to top administration officials, the pardons would affect 6,500 persons convicted of federal charges for simple possession from 1992 through 2021 and thousands of people in Washington, D.C.
Biden is encouraging governors to follow suit. According to sources, the President wants to halt what he terms a flawed approach to marijuana that unfairly impacts people of color with simple possession sentences.
Two administration officials stated that the President would ask the attorney general to produce pardon certificates that individuals may submit to law enforcement and employers.
The sources advised that Mr. Biden also intends to order the Department of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to reconsider the classification of marijuana as a schedule 1 restricted drug. This classification also includes heroin and LSD.
Mr. Biden stated that marijuana has a higher categorization than methamphetamine and fentanyl, which have fueled the U.S. overdose crisis. The Justice Department stated it would expeditiously pardon U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who have violated the federal controlled drugs statute or the Washington, D.C. code.
A first offense of marijuana possession under federal law is punishable by one year in prison and a $1,000 fine, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Decriminalization of the substance has spread quickly across the United States in recent years after the legalization of medical usage in several states and municipalities. According to the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center at Ohio State University, 36 states currently permit the use of marijuana for therapeutic purposes.
Two out of three Americans support legalizing cannabis, and more than half of the states have legalized it for some reason. The President is acting after politicians from both parties indicated support for decriminalizing marijuana possession, but resistance from other lawmakers stymied legislative progress. Because of political concerns, the Biden administration has avoided taking a position on decriminalizing marijuana possession.
During his presidential campaign, Mr. Biden advocated for the relaxation of marijuana laws. He stated that he would legalize marijuana, preventing people from being imprisoned for possession and expunging criminal records. According to the proposals, the attorney general would create an administrative mechanism to give plan participants certificates of pardon. Amy Povah, head of CanDo Clemency, a charity that advocates for releasing nonviolent drug offenders from prison, said. They were glad he was considering marijuana as a schedule 1 drug. She believes marijuana should be decriminalized and points out that most possession prosecutions will result in state sentences rather than federal ones. In spite of the fact that Black and white people consume marijuana at comparable rates, black people are 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.