President Joe Biden has announced a set of executive actions to pardon people convicted of simple marijuana possession under the Controlled Substances Act or D.C. Code.
In a Proclamation on Granting Pardon for the Offense of Simple Possession of Marijuana, issued Thursday, Biden made it clear that his pardon is not applicable to any other offenses related to marijuana or other controlled substances.
“Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit. Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities,” Biden said.
He noted that 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.
Biden said he is announcing three steps to end this “failed approach”.
Biden has directed the Attorney General to develop an administrative process for the issuance of certificates of pardon to eligible individuals. Thousands of people in the United States, convicted for marijuana possession, have been denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities.
In addition to the executive order, Biden urged all governors to take similar action with regard to state offenses.
The President is also 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 overdose epidemic in the country.
Biden said that even as federal and state regulation of marijuana changes, important limitations on trafficking, marketing, and under-age sales should stay in place.
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