President Joe Biden on Thursday said he has pardoned about 6,500 who had been convicted of federal marijuana possession charges. With one month to go until the midterm elections, and with Democrats slipping in the polls, the move is considered by some to be a play for votes. He framed it as a move toward racial equity.
Biden also said he will review whether marijuana should be considered a Schedule 1 drug, similar to heroin.
“As I often said during my campaign for President, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana. Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit. Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates,” says the transcript of Biden’s remarks.
“I have directed the Attorney General to develop an administrative process for the issuance of certificates of pardon to eligible individuals. 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,” he said.
Biden also encouraged governors to do the same. In Alaska, marijuana has been decriminalized and commercial sales of the substance has been in law since voters passed Ballot Measure 2 in 2014.
Although he is moving to decriminalize the drug, the president said that laws governing trafficking, marketing, and under-age sales should stay in place.