In a move toward decriminalizing marijuana, President Joe Biden will pardon all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession.
The White House announced on Thursday (October 6), with senior officials explaining the pardon would only apply to individuals convicted of simple marijuana possession, including those in the District of Columbia.
In its announcement, the White House contrasted the conviction rates for Black and Brown people to those of White people, saying that while usage rates were similar among both groups, “black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”
In a tweet coinciding with the White House announcement, Biden stated, “As I’ve said before, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.”
He continued, “Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives — for conduct that is legal in many states. That’s before you address the clear racial disparities around prosecution and conviction. Today, we begin to right these wrongs.”
Biden explained the pardons would help those who have been convicted of simple marijuana possession to find jobs and housing.
“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,” Biden stated. “My action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions.”
The President then called on the state legislature to follow suit by pardoning state convictions for simple marijuana possession.
He also instructed Attorney General Merrick Garland Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra to look into the scheduling of marijuana, noting that “The federal government currently classifies marijuana as a “schedule one” substance, the same as heroin and LSD – and more serious than fentanyl,” saying that “makes no sense.”