The decision marks a shift in the White House’s policy regarding cannabis
On Thursday, President Joe Biden pardoned all those convicted of simple marijuana possession in accordance with federal law. This is the largest White House action on US drug policies to date and may mark a shift in federal policies.
The president also called on governors to take similar actions for state offenses related to the civil possession of marijuana. He also asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services and Attorney General to review the federal marijuana schedule. The current Schedule I classification of marijuana means that it is not suitable for medical use and has high potential to be abused. Heroin and LSD, are also Schedule I drugs.
Biden said in a statement that sending people to prison for possessing cannabis has caused too many deaths and imprisoned people for conduct many states have stopped banning. He explained, “Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”
The president stated that while regulations that restrict trafficking, marketing, and sales to minors should not be changed, states should follow the administration’s lead since the vast majority of marijuana-related convictions in the US were made under state or local laws.
Advocates have been pushing for this move for months. It brings marijuana policy to the forefront just weeks before the midterm elections. This shows how quickly the politics of the issue has changed in such a short time.
According to polling, nearly two-thirds (or more) of Americans support legalizing marijuana. However, the impact on practice, at least for now, could be limited. According to the White House, most people in federal prison for cannabis offenses do not have minor, nonviolent crimes. This order will affect thousands of people.