President Joe Biden on Thursday
“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” Biden said in his announcement of the policy. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.”
The announcement also marks a fulfillment of a Biden campaign promise, something he acknowledged on Thursday.
“As I often said during my campaign for President, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,”
Along with announcing a “pardon of all prior Federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana,” Biden said he “directed the Attorney General to develop an administrative process for the issuance of certificates of pardon to eligible individuals.”
These pardons will open up new doors of opportunity for those who have faced federal cannabis possession charges.
“There are thousands of people who have prior Federal convictions for marijuana possession, who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result. My action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions,” Biden said.
Biden urged governors in all states to follow his lead by pardoning cannabis possession charges on the state level.
“Just as no one should be in a Federal prison solely due to the possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either,” he said.
What Progressive Steps Will Follow Biden’s Pardon of Federal Cannabis Charges?
Additionally, Biden’s announcement presaged a broader shift in how the United States treats marijuana. While more than a dozen states have legalized recreational cannabis for adults in the last decade, pot remains banned on the federal level under the Controlled Substances Act.
On Thursday, the president indicated that will be changing, saying he’s directed “the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to initiate 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,” Biden said.
The announcement on Thursday was cheered by Democrats on Capitol Hill and drug reform advocates alike.
But others said there is more to be done.
Inimai Chettiar, the federal director of the Justice Action Network,
“That’s trying to change a policy decision that was made that marijuana is as dangerous as these other drugs, which we know is not true,”
Democrats in Congress have taken steps toward passing legislation that would end the federal prohibition on cannabis, with the House of Representatives approving a bill earlier this year.
But the effort has stalled in the Senate, despite repeated pledges by Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer to get legalization done.
On Thursday, Schumer applauded Biden’s move.
“I’ve been making progress to pass legislation to bring federal cannabis law in line with the views of the overwhelming majority of Americans, end the federal prohibition on cannabis, and make criminal justice reforms,” Schumer