Biden Pardons All Federal Cannabis Possession Offenses
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President Joe Biden has issued a pardon for all Americans with a federal criminal conviction of cannabis possession.
The decision marks the first major steps towards US-wide cannabis decriminalization, a policy the president promised to implement during his campaign run.
The White House administration estimates that over 6,500 people with prior federal convictions will benefit from the policy. Thousands more in the District of Columbia (DC) will also reportedly benefit from a similar change in DC law.
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In an unexpected move, President Biden announced the new policy in the afternoon of Thursday, October 6.
In a tweet, he reiterated his previous claim that “no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.”
“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.”
The president went on to say that his administration will now work with the Department of Health and Attorney General Merrick Garland to classify cannabis at the same level as heroin. He also urged all US governors to pardon simple state cannabis 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” the president tweeted.
Shortly after the president’s announcement, the US Department of Justice issued its own statement on how it will carry out the new policy.
“The Justice Department will expeditiously administer the President’s proclamation, which pardons individuals who engaged in simple possession of marijuana, restoring political, civil, and other rights to those convicted of that offense. In coming days, the Office of the Pardon Attorney will begin implementing a process to provide impacted individuals with certificates of pardon.”
In reaction to the president’s new plan, NORML, a non-profit group that advocates for cannabis legalization, was praising but urged the administration to go further.
“Many of the efforts taken and proposed by the President today are long overdue,” the group said in a statement.
“Moving forward, the Administration must work collaboratively with Congressional leadership to repeal America’s failed marijuana criminalization laws. Nearly half of voters now agree that legalizing marijuana ought to be a priority for Congress, and such action can only be taken by descheduling cannabis and repealing it from the US Controlled Substances Act — thereby regulating it in a manner similar to alcohol. 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.”
President Biden’s announcement comes one month before the US congressional mid-term elections.