US President Joe Biden has issued federal pardons to those convicted of possessing small quantities of marijuana. The official estimate puts the number of people benefitting from these pardons at 6,500. The move is in line with Biden’s agenda of decriminalising cannabis use and expunging convictions that he expressed as a presidential canditate.
Most convictions for possession of marijuana take place at a state level. No one is currently serving in federal prison for this offence. However, the pardons will help people get education, employment and housing. Along with expunging federal convictions, he is also calling on Governers to pardon state marijuana possession offences.
Biden elaborated on the federal pardons in a Twitter thread as well.
As I’ve said before, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.
Today, I’m taking steps to end our failed approach. Allow me to lay them out.
— President Biden (@POTUS) October 6, 2022
Furthermore, he said that it “makes no sense” to classify marijuana on the same level as heroin and as more severe than fentanyl. He urged Secretary Xavier Becerra of the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and the Attorney General to undertake the process of revisiting marijuana in federal law. He also highlighted racial discrimation in marijuana related offences. Statistically, non-white people are more likely to be convicted for such crimes. However, Biden also noted that with changes in regulations, there will come restrictions on trafficking, marketing and underage sales of marijuana.
“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.” Biden wrote on Twitter.
Currently, recreational marijuana is legal in 19 US states and Washington DC and medical marijuana is legal in 37 states and three US territories. But at the federal level, it is still illegal. This makes it possible for people to be arrested for marijuana possession even in states where it is legal. After news of the pardons broke out, cannabis company shares saw a jump of around 20% on the stock market.