Wed | Nov 30, 2022

Biden pardons thousands for ‘simple possession’ of marijuana

Published:Thursday | October 6, 2022 | 2:44 PM
President Joe Biden boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, to travel to Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is pardoning thousands of Americans convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana under federal law, as his administration takes a dramatic step toward decriminalising the drug and addressing charging practices that disproportionately impact people of colour.

Biden's move also covers thousands convicted of the crime in the District of Columbia.

He is also calling on governors to issue similar pardons for those convicted of state marijuana offences, which reflect the vast majority of marijuana possession cases.

Biden, in a statement, said the move reflects his position that “no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.”

“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” he added. “It's time that we right these wrongs.”

According to the White House, no one is currently in federal prison solely for “simple possession” of the drug, but the pardon could help thousands overcome obstacles to renting a home or finding a job.

“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,” he said. “My action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions.”

The pardon does not cover convictions for possession of other drugs, or charges relating to producing or possessing marijuana with an intent to distribute. Biden is also not pardoning non-citizens who were in the US without legal status at the time of their arrest.

The Department of Justice is working to devise a process for those covered by Biden's pardon to receive a certificate of pardon, which they can show to potential employers and others as needed.

“The Justice Department will expeditiously administer the President's proclamation, which pardons individuals who engaged in simple possession of marijuana, restoring political, civil, and other rights to those convicted of that offence,” the department said in a statement.

“In coming days, the Office of the Pardon Attorney will begin implementing a process to provide impacted individuals with certificates of pardon.”

Biden is also directing the secretary of Health and Human Services and the US attorney general to review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.

Rescheduling the drug would reduce or potentially eliminate criminal penalties for possession.

Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD, but ahead of fentanyl and methamphetamine.

The White House did not set a timeline for the review.

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