WASHINGTON, D.C.– President Joe Biden is beginning the process of decriminalizing cannabis and fulfilling a campaign promise to overturn earlier federal possession convictions. He is also beginning to relax the drug’s official categorization.
Senior administration officials predicted that thousands of Americans would be impacted by Biden’s decision to pardon all previous federal crimes of simple cannabis possession on Thursday.
Biden said in a statement that “sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for behavior that many states no longer ban.” “Criminal records for possessing marijuana made it more difficult to find a job, a place to live, or a place to go to school. Additionally, despite the same rates of marijuana usage by White people and people of color, Black and brown people have disproportionately high rates of arrest, prosecution, and conviction.
Further, Biden said he will assign the Department of Health and Human Services and Attorney General Merrick Garland to “expeditiously” review how cannabis is scheduled under federal law. He will also urge governors to take similar action to forgive state simple marijuana possession convictions.
The steps do not go as far as complete decriminalization, which has grown in popularity among both major parties. However, they represent the first significant moves made by a US president to eliminate cannabis possession-related criminal sanctions.
Despite the fact that some states have legalized marijuana use for both medical and recreational purposes, the drug remains illegal under federal law. Cannabis is classified as a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 because it “has a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medicinal value.”
Because of this, even in jurisdictions where marijuana usage is permitted, some users may now face legal action.
Biden did not support the legalization of cannabis for recreational use while he was a candidate. He did, however, take a position in favor of decriminalization.
“No one ought to be imprisoned because to marijuana. He declared during his presidential campaign, “I will decriminalize cannabis usage and instantly remove prior convictions.”
Since cannabis is now legal in more and more states, there has been a push to relax federal cannabis laws. A bill to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level was passed by the House in late 2020, but the Republican-controlled Senate did not take it up.
Editor: This story is developing and will be updated.