In a significant new step toward decriminalizing marijuana possession on Thursday, US President Joe Biden kept a promise he made to his supporters a month before the midterm elections.
Biden said, “I am declaring a pardon of all past federal charges of simple possession of marijuana.”
While stating that “limitations on trafficking, marketing, and underage sales should be in place,” Biden did not advocate for the complete decriminalization of cannabis.
Instead, he focused on personal possession of a drug that many state governments have already legalized for recreational or medicinal use, which the federal health authorities believe was used by at least 18% of the population in 2019.
Along with the pardons, Biden gave the justice and health departments the task of determining whether cannabis might be reclassified as a less harmful drug.
Officials told reporters that convictions directly impact about 6,500 individuals under federal marijuana laws. In addition, thousands more people convicted under Washington, D.C., legislation will also be granted clemency.
Biden’s action, however, wants to push the change far further and encourage state governments worldwide to do the same.
“Regarding state violations, I’m pleading with all governors to take the same action. No one should be detained merely for marijuana possession in federal prison, and the same goes for detention in a county jail or state prison, ” Biden.
Without any build-up on the part of the White House, the relocation announcement was made suddenly by video and written statement.
But the effect is anticipated to be substantial, both legally and politically, giving Biden the chance to reclaim the narrative on a trend toward legalization that large sections of the nation have already accepted.
Biden has finally met a crucial demand from racial justice advocates upset at the way enforcement of cannabis laws often targets ethnic minorities.
This comes before the November 8 midterm elections, where his Democrats are fighting to maintain even a little amount of control of Congress.
“No one should go to prison for smoking or owning marijuana, as I have said throughout my presidential campaign. Too many lives have been ruined and individuals imprisoned for behavior that many states no longer prohibit due to marijuana possession laws “added Biden.
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He pointed out that marijuana possession charges disproportionately impact non-White individuals and may have long-lasting legal repercussions, making it harder for them to acquire jobs and enroll in school.
A directive to federal health and justice authorities to “examine promptly how marijuana is scheduled under federal law” was the third move outlined.
Currently, marijuana is classified under federal law alongside drugs like heroin and LSD, generally considered far more hazardous. It is in a class above the relatively recent, highly addictive substances methamphetamine and fentanyl.
According to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the president’s decision recognized that the so-called “war on drugs” has been “a war on people and particularly people of color,” who are people of color.
Schumer is a key Biden ally battling to keep the chamber under Democratic control in November.
We commend President Biden, said Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, a distinguished civil rights group, on Twitter.
“The NAACP has made ending unfair treatment, including marijuana reform, a top concern for decades.”