Thousands Convicted of Pot Possession to Be Pardoned

Biden encourages states to do the same, attorney general to revisit federal law
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 6, 2022 2:50 PM CDT
Thousands Convicted of Pot Possession to Be Pardoned
President Biden speaks Thursday at an IBM facility in Poughkeepsie, NY.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Everyone convicted on federal marijuana possession charges is in for a pardon, President Biden announced Thursday. "No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana," Biden said. The administration said thousands of people will receive pardons, the Los Angeles Times reports. Officials estimated that more than 6,500 Americans were convicted of possession from 1992 to 2021. The decision constitutes a major step toward decriminalizing marijuana, in keeping with a 2020 campaign pledge, per CNN. Biden called on governors to do the same.

The 1970 Controlled Substances Act lists marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, along with heroin and LSD, categorizing it as having "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse." But many states have enacted their own laws making marijuana legal for recreational and medical use. That means people can face prosecution in states where marijuana use is legal. Biden charged the Department of Health and Human Services and Attorney General Merrick Garland with conducting speedy reviews of how marijuana is classified in the law. The Biden White House has punished staff members who used marijuana.

"Criminal records for marijuana possession have led to needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities," Biden said Thursday. "And that's before you address the racial disparities around who suffers the consequences. While white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people are arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates." An administration official said that for those with marijuana convictions on their record who are denied housing, employment, or educational opportunities, per NBC News, "this pardon will help relieve those collateral consequences." (More marijuana legalization stories.)

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