President Joe Biden announced on Thursday that he will pardon individuals convicted for “simple possession” of marijuana. The pardon is a step towards Biden’s campaign pledge to decriminalize marijuana and change federal attitudes towards the drug, according to CNN. It is important to note that this pardon does not make marijuana legal under federal law.
“No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said in a White House press release. “Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives.”
The pardon impacts more than 6,500 individuals who have been convicted for simple marijuana possession and is only available to U.S. citizens.
“Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing and educational opportunities,” Biden said. “My pardon will remove this burden on them.”
What is Biden’s three-step plan to alter the U.S. approach to marijuana?
Step 1: A federal pardon for individuals convicted for simple marijuana possession. Biden expects his pardon will help convicted individuals find jobs, housing and educational opportunities.
- “My action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions,” Biden said.
Step 2: Biden encouraged governors to take similar steps in their own states. Marijuana is currently legal in 19 U.S. states. Rhode Island and Vermont are the two most recent states to change their stance on recreational marijuana.
Step 3: Biden asked Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland to reevaluate how the U.S. categorizes marijuana and to review that classification promptly.
- Under federal law, marijuana is currently listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. This schedules marijuana under the same umbrella as heroin and LSD. Currently, marijuana is federally listed as more dangerous than fentanyl and methamphetamine.
Biden closed his statement by saying, “Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs.”