Staff Writer: Julian Cassady
On October 6th, Biden announced a pardon to all Americans with federal-level, simple marijuana possession charges.
Biden stated that “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. My action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions.”
It’s made clear in the details of this pardon that Americans with a State conviction will not be eligible, as well as anyone with a Federal infraction after October 7th, 2022.
There are some other stipulations to this pardon, one being that it is for charges only relating to simple marijuana possession, so any intent to distribute charges or large amount possession charges do not apply.
Additionally, if an individual was caught with any other drug other than marijuana at the time of the offense, they would also not be eligible for the pardon.
Despite the pardons not covering State offenses, Biden urged Governors to follow his lead and pardon State offenders of simple marijuana possession.
Biden stressed that nobody should be in jail, be unable to vote, or be unable to get a decent-paying job due to being caught with a little bit of weed on them in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He also pointed out that while most races and ethnicities use marijuana about the same amount, Black and brown people are charged and convicted at a disproportionately higher rate than white people.
Along with pardoning simple offenses and urging Governors to do the same, Biden is also asking the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to review marijuana’s classification as a Schedule 1 drug alongside heroin and cocaine.
As it stands fentanyl is on a lower classification than marijuana.
All these declarations from President Biden are an excellent start to significant reform for marijuana legislation. The legalization of marijuana is supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans. In a survey conducted by Morning Consult, 60% of American voters support Federal legalization.
President Biden reminded Americans that even as federal and state regulation changes, limitations on drug trafficking, marketing, and underage sales are important and should absolutely stay in place.
The War on Drugs is widely regarded as a failed attempt at drug and crime control, these steps taken by President Biden and his administration strive to finally put an end to this needless use of taxpayer resources.
In my opinion, President Biden is making the right move, however, I do believe it’s too little too late.
Although the steps the Biden administration is taking are positive, more could be done to expedite the legislative process to give voters what they’ve been asking for over a decade.
Since Biden can only pardon Federal offenses, the power truly lies with state Governors to enact any real changes. If most or all the 50 states legalized marijuana, there wouldn’t be anything stopping the federal government from making marijuana recreationally legal nationwide.
So far 38 states have legalized the medical use of marijuana and only 19 have legalized it for recreational use.
This all comes as five states: Arkansas, Missouri, Maryland, North Dakota, and South Dakota all have ballot questions regarding marijuana legislation this November.