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Biden to Pardon Thousands Arrested for “Simple Possession” of Cannabis

Announcement signals a historic step toward decriminalizing cannabis.




Cannabis supporters gather in Denver, CO for a 4/20 rally in 2011. American President Joseph Biden is asking for the pardon of those cannabis users who have been arrested on possession charges. PHOTO COURTESY WIKIMEDIA

President Joseph Biden announced on Friday announced pardons for thousands of Americans arrested for “simple possession” of cannabis. The pardons will expunge the records of those being still penalized for conduct that is now “legal in many states,” said Biden.  The pardons, however, do not free the roughly 2,700 inmates still in prison federal prison on more serious charges. The President also called for  an official review of marijuana’s status as a Schedule 1 drug, signaling a historic step toward decriminalizing cannabis in the United States.

On Friday, President Biden Tweeted out:

“As I’ve said before, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana. Today, I’m taking steps to end our failed approach. Allow me to lay them out.

First: I’m pardoning all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession. There are thousands of people who were previously convicted of simple possession who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result. My pardon will remove this burden.

Second: I’m calling on governors to pardon simple state marijuana possession offenses. Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely for possessing marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either.

Third: We classify marijuana at the same level as heroin – and more serious than fentanyl. It makes no sense. I’m asking @SecBecerra [Xavier Becerra is the 25th Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services] and the Attorney General to initiate the process of reviewing how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.


I’d also like to note that as federal and state regulations change, we still need important limitations on trafficking, marketing, and underage sales of marijuana.

Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives – for conduct that is legal in many states. That’s before you address the clear racial disparities around prosecution and conviction. Today, we begin to right these wrongs.”

The pardons will clear the records of those convicted on federal charges since the 1970s. The New York Times estimates about 6,500 people were convicted of possession or use of cannabis in the last decade alone.




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