On October 6th, 2022 President Biden made the bold step to pardon all prior federal offenses of people incarcerated for simple marijuana possession charges. This momentous move will clear thousands of convictions that were committed between 1992 and 2021, helping to right the wrongs our country has committed to many marginalized communities.
President Joe Biden On Twitter Announcing Cannabis Reform
Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives – for conduct that is legal in many states. That’s before you address the clear racial disparities around prosecution and conviction. Today, we begin to right these wrongs.— President Biden (@POTUS) October 6, 2022
On Twitter, the president laid out his new plan in three steps:
“First: I’m pardoning all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession. There are thousands of people who were previously convicted of simple possession who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result. My pardon will remove this burden.”
“Second: I’m calling on governors to pardon simple state marijuana possession offenses. Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely for possessing marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either.”
“Third: We classify marijuana at the same level as heroin – and more serious than fentanyl. It makes no sense. I’m asking @SecBecerra and the Attorney General to initiate the process of reviewing how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.”
This pardon will impact more than 6,500 individuals with prior convictions and thousands more through pardons under the District of Colombia’s law.
Joe Biden and Cannabis Reform
When Joe Biden was running for president, he made it seem like reform would be just over the horizon if elected. While knee-deep on the campaign trail in October 2020, President Biden made a video highlighting how he planned to decriminalize marijuana. In the video, he said, “As president, I’ll work to reform the criminal justice system, improve community policing, decriminalize marijuana and automatically expunge prior marijuana convictions.” This ad and other campaign speeches brought hope to a large marginalized community of Americans who suffer daily due to current cannabis laws.
This is Just the Beginning
There are still millions of people with marijuana convictions on the state level. In fact, arrests for marijuana possession account for between 40-50% of all drug arrests, and these arrests affect black and brown communities drastically more. In one study conducted by the ACLU, a black person is three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person. This dramatic disparity and resulting negative consequences have uprooted millions of families’ hopes, dreams, and opportunities.
Hopefully, this pardon will set in motion even more action that will legalize marijuana on a federal level and right the millions of wrongs our archaic laws have committed. Even though we are the “land of the free,” our laws continue to fuel systemic racism and inequality. It is high time we treat everyone equally and mend our past mistakes.