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Biden issues pardons for thousands convicted of federal marijuana offences

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Thursday, October 6, President Joe Biden pardoned thousands of people who had been convicted under federal marijuana laws. He also stated his administration would be reviewing how marijuana is categorized in the future. This means reconsidering whether the substance should be placed in the same legal grouping as “harder” drugs such as heroin.

The pardons apply to anyone who has been convicted on federal-level charges of simple possession of marijuana. Simple possession of marijuana became a crime in the 1970s. While complete data is not available, officials estimate that approximately 6500 people were convicted for this federal offense between 1992 and 2021. It is to be noted that those convicted of selling or distributing marijuana do not qualify for a pardon.

While there is currently no one serving in federal prison solely for possession, this announcement could be life-changing for countless people. It paves the way to getting a (better) job, applying for college, opting for better housing, and even qualifying for federal benefits.

Those convicted of simple possession on the state level far outnumber those serving time on federal charges. President Biden is urging governors to offer the same pardons, especially since several states have legalized marijuana in at least some capacity. Biden also addressed the racial disparity among marijuana convicts and stated, “Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives.”

Complete decriminalization of marijuana was not mentioned, as this would be a task for Congress. However, Biden will be asking attorney general Merrick Garland to review how marijuana is classified legally, thus determining what penalties should apply if the substance is recategorized. The president further added that marijuana being considered a Schedule 1 substance “makes no sense.”

Biden’s announcement is a significant move in a culture clash over marijuana that has lasted over fifty years. Issued a month before the midterm elections, this act could energize voters and boost support for Democrats. It will also create a fresh start for countless non-violent “offenders” who are simply seeking a brighter future.


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