Photo by Bill Clark for CQ Roll Call via Getty Images.
President Biden Pardons Thousands Convicted of Cannabis Possession Under Federal Law
Biden also called on state governors to evacuate charges for cannabis possession on a local level.
In a landmark move for the White House, President Joe Biden will issue a sweeping executive order to release all federal prisoners serving time for civil cannabis possession.
According to The New York Times, the order, which is expected to be signed on Thursday, would clear the slate of about 6,500 people convicted of simple cannabis possession between 1992 and 2021 (plus a few thousand more who were convicted in DC.) "As I’ve said before, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana," Biden wrote in the first of several tweets outlining a multilevel strategy for comprehensive federal drug policy reform (see below.) In subsequent tweets, Biden called on state governors to follow his lead in evacuating the charges of those convicted of low-level cannabis possession on a local level and claimed he'd be working with both the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to "initiate the process of reviewing how marijuana is scheduled under federal law." Currently, cannabis is classified as a Schedule I narcotic along with LSD, heroin, and other drugs considered to have a high risk of abuse and no medicinal value.
The Biden administration's action is arguably the strongest shift in federal cannabis sentiment in the history of the office. But it's not a terribly hard pivot for the administration itself. During the 2020 election, Biden backed rescheduling, medical legalization, and decriminalizing the possession of minor amounts over a full stop to federal prohibition. Biden was also the lone Democratic presidential candidate not in support of descheduling the drug, which would effectively legalize cannabis on the federal level.
\u201cAs I\u2019ve said before, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.\n\nToday, I\u2019m taking steps to end our failed approach. Allow me to lay them out.\u201d— President Biden (@President Biden) 1665082827
\u201cFirst: I\u2019m pardoning all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession. There are thousands of people who were previously convicted of simple possession who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result. My pardon will remove this burden.\u201d— President Biden (@President Biden) 1665082827
\u201cSecond: I\u2019m calling on governors to pardon simple state marijuana possession offenses. Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely for possessing marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either.\u201d— President Biden (@President Biden) 1665082827
\u201cI\u2019d also like to note that as federal and state regulations change, we still need important limitations on trafficking, marketing, and underage sales of marijuana.\u201d— President Biden (@President Biden) 1665082827
\u201cSending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives \u2013 for conduct that is legal in many states. That\u2019s before you address the clear racial disparities around prosecution and conviction. Today, we begin to right these wrongs.\u201d— President Biden (@President Biden) 1665082827