Biden pardons offenders convicted of simple marijuana possession

President Joe Biden is asking the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to “expeditiously” review marijuana, which now has the same Schedule I narcotic classification as heroin and LSD, and he will pardon everyone who has been convicted for simple possession of marijuana under federal law.

“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,” said Biden.

The announcement represents the most significant action on marijuana the Biden administration has taken to date — and a major step towards decriminalization.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, even as states have moved toward legal use for recreational and medical purposes.

Over the past decade, 19 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Guam have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Meanwhile, 37 states now allow some form of medical cannabis, and only three states have no cannabis access laws on the books.

“President Biden took action to give thousands of Americans their lives back,” said Lisa McCormick, a New Jersey activist who supports the legalization of marijuana. “This is another step forward toward fixing decades of injustice because simple marijuana offenses can stay on the record of individuals for a lifetime – impacting their ability to further their education, find a steady job, or secure reliable housing. President Biden’s action will help chart a new and better course on criminal justice in America.”

Biden “is taking steps to end our failed approach to marijuana,” said Assistant White House Press Secretary Kevin Munoz.

“There are thousands of people with prior federal convictions for marijuana possession who may be denied housing, employment, or educational opportunities as a result. This pardon will help relieve those collateral consequences,” said Munoz.

“Second, the President is urging all governors to do the same with regard to state offenses of simple possession of marijuana. Just as no one should be in federal prison solely due to the possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or a state prison for that reason either,” said Munoz.

“Third, the President is asking the Secretary of HHS and the Attorney General to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law,” said Munoz. “Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act as the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and it’s even higher than the classification for fentanyl and methamphetamine — the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic.”

Munoz also said, “the President will make clear today that even as federal and state marijuana law changes, important limitations on trafficking, marketing, and underage sales should stay in place.”

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