President Joe Biden’s announcement of pardons for all previous federal crimes of simple marijuana possession has been welcomed by criminal justice advocates as “long overdue.”
“There are thousands of people who have been convicted of marijuana possession by the federal government who could be deprived of employment, housing or educational opportunities. My actions will help mitigate the collateral consequences of these convictions,” Biden said in a statement. said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.
“Sending people to prison for marijuana possession has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that is no longer prohibited in many states. Criminal records for marijuana possession have also taken a toll on employment, housing and educational opportunities. Unnecessary barriers. While white, black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, black and brown people are arrested, prosecuted and convicted at disproportionate rates,” he added.
Administration officials said the pardon could benefit about 6,500 people, The Hill reported.
“It’s time for us to correct those mistakes,” Biden said.
He went on to urge all governors to do the same with state crime, saying, “Just as no one should go to a federal prison just for possession of marijuana, no one should go to a local jail or a state for marijuana possession. Prison. That’s why.”
The president also called on the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to initiate an administrative process to review how marijuana is organized under federal law.
Under federal law, marijuana is currently classified in Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act. Drugs classified under this table “have no current accepted medical use and are likely to be abused”.
This classification puts marijuana on the same level as heroin and LSD, and even higher than that of fentanyl and methamphetamine, two drugs that are fueling the ongoing overdose epidemic across the country.
Advocacy groups praised Biden’s statement, with Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Coalition, saying the group was “excited” but adding “this is incredibly long overdue.” .
“There’s no reason to burden people with criminal records — preventing them from getting jobs, housing, and countless other opportunities — because it’s legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and decriminalized in 31 states.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, said Biden’s “just actions today will bring the lives of countless Americans back.” But he added, “America will never just legalize marijuana until it takes into account outdated policies that equated thousands of young black men with die-hard drug dealers.”
The move also satisfies one of the top priorities for Democratic candidates in one of the Democratic Party’s most crucial Senate races, as Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Feltman has repeatedly urged Biden to take the step, including last month when they When meeting in Pittsburgh.
In a statement, Feltman praised Biden for bringing the issue to the agenda and praised the decision, calling it “a giant step toward justice.”
“This action by President Biden is exactly what this job is supposed to do: improve people’s lives. I applaud the President for taking this important, necessary and just step to right wrong and improve the lives of millions of Americans,” he said. Say.
The Associated Press contributed to this report