President Joe Biden announced on Thursday a pardon for everyone with a federal offense for simple marijuana possession.
Biden announced the move as part of a broader set of federal reforms over marijuana. In a White House press statement, Biden said he would pardon everyone federally charged for simple marijuana possession, encourage state’s governors to do the same for similar state level offenses and said he would direct Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra to review marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug.
“Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit,” Biden said. “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. Today, I am announcing three steps that I am taking to end this failed approach.”
Biden explained his three actions, stating:
First, I am announcing a pardon of all prior Federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana. I have directed the Attorney General to develop an administrative process for the issuance of certificates of pardon to eligible individuals. 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.
Second, I am urging all Governors to do the same with regard to state offenses. 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.
Third, I am asking 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.
While announcing this effort to pardon punishments for simple possession Biden said “important limitations on trafficking, marketing, and under-age sales should stay in place.”