President Joe Biden (D) on Thursday pardoned all federal cannabis possession convictions and said his administration would take steps to consider rescheduling cannabis under federal law, according to a White House press release.
“As I’ve said before, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” the president said on Twitter on Thursday. “Today, I’m taking steps to end our failed approach.”
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
In a statement posted online, Biden said his Secretary of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Attorney General would “initiative the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.”
“Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances. This is the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine – the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic.” — President Biden, in a statement
He also said governors around the U.S. should take similar steps to pardon cannabis offenses at the state level but that “important limitations on trafficking, marketing, and under-age sales should stay in place.”
Biden campaigned for office on a promise of relief for individuals convicted or incarcerated for using cannabis but after nearly two years of no visible effort, voters and advocates had grown vocal about the president’s apparent inaction. NORML’s Executive Director Erik Altieri said in a statement that while the action was “long overdue,” the cannabis advocacy group was “pleased” to see the president follow through on his campaign promise and called for swift collaboration to “repeal America’s failed marijuana criminalization laws.”
“Congress should be inspired by the Administration’s actions today to act quickly and send legislation to the President’s desk that would help close this dark chapter of our history,” Altieri said.
“We are thrilled that President Biden has taken this initial action to pardon thousands of individuals suffering the collateral consequences of a cannabis conviction,” said Sarah Gersten, Executive Director for Last Prisoner Project. “While we will continue to call on his administration to release those still incarcerated in federal prison for cannabis offenses other than simple possession, these grants are an important first step in acknowledging the need to repair the harms of prohibition. We look forward to continuing to work with the Biden administration on broader clemency grants, the release of every federal cannabis prisoner and the federal legalization of cannabis.”
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