President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he will pardon all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession.
According to White House officials, the pardon applies to those convicted of simple possession of marijuana, including in Washington, D.C.
They also noted that even though marijuana is used at similar rates by white people and people of color, “black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”
Biden urged governors to take similar action for state marijuana offenses and instructed the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to begin reviewing how marijuana is classified under federal law.
“The federal government currently classifies marijuana as a “schedule one” substance, the same as heroin and LSD – and more serious than fentanyl,” he said. “It makes no sense.”
In addition, Biden stressed the importance of “limitations on trafficking, marketing, and underage sales of marijuana.”
“As I’ve said before, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden tweeted.
“Today, I’m taking steps to end our failed approach,” he continued.
Biden said the pardons will help thousands overcome obstacles that they face when looking for housing or jobs.
“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,” he explained.
“The President has been clear that marijuana laws are not working,” said a senior administration official. “The president has been considering his options and he is now taking executive action.”
The Department of Justice has promised swift action on the executive order from Biden.
“The Justice Department will expeditiously administer the President’s proclamation, which pardons individuals who engaged in simple possession of marijuana, restoring political, civil, and other rights to those convicted of that offense,” it said.
“In coming days, the Office of the Pardon Attorney will begin implementing a process to provide impacted individuals with certificates of pardon,” the statement continued.
Advocates that have been pushing for this for months were happy with Biden’s announcement, but some want him to take more action.
“A review by HHS of how cannabis is scheduled is welcome, but those of us who have been advocating for reform, we already know that a comprehensive federal solution is needed,” said Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.
37 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized medical marijuana and 19 states allow recreational adult use.