President Joe Biden issues federal pardons for 'simple possession’ of marijuana

Oct 11, 2022 - 13:31
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President Joe Biden issues federal pardons for 'simple possession’ of marijuana
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President Joe Biden has pardoned all Americans who have been convicted at the national level of possessing small amounts of marijuana.

Officials estimate about 6,500 people with federal convictions for simple possession of marijuana will benefit. No one is currently in federal prison solely for possession of marijuana. Most convictions occur at the state level.

But the federal pardons will make it easier for people to get employment, housing, and education, Mr. Biden said. As a presidential candidate, Mr. Biden promised to decriminalize cannabis use, as well as expunging convictions.

"Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit," Mr. Biden said on Thursday.

He added that non-white people were statistically far more likely to be jailed for cannabis.

As a White House candidate, Mr Biden was criticized for writing a 1994 crime bill that stiffened penalties for drug crimes and led to more incarceration of minorities. Currently, 19 states have legalized recreational marijuana use and 38 states have provisions for medical use. Five additional states have legalization measures on their midterm ballots.

The Democratic president said he would call upon all state governors to issue their own marijuana pardons. He is also directing the Department of Justice and the Department of Health to review how cannabis is classified under federal law.

"We classify marijuana at the same level as heroin - and more serious than fentanyl," said Mr. Biden. "It makes no sense."

Recreational marijuana is already legal in 19 states and Washington DC. Medical use is legal in 37 states and three US territories. Biden's marijuana pardon will help reverse the War on Drugs harm to Black people.

This is a good cause and reminder to all world leaders, especially in Africa, to end the war on drugs.

Policy Watch Africa Harm reduction through journalism-advocating for rational drug policy and human rights in Africa