US President Joe Biden Thursday pardoned “all prior Federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana.” Biden explained that criminal records for marijuana possession have negatively impacted “too many lives,” particularly those of black and brown people through disproportionate conviction rates.
Biden urged state governors to pardon marijuana possession offenses at their respective state levels. He also called on the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the US Attorney General to review whether marijuana should remain a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Biden noted that, while marijuana is classified at the level of the most dangerous substances, drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine are classified at a lower level but drive the current overdose epidemic in the US.
Executive Director of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Erik Altieri responded to Biden’s announcement, saying, the organization is “pleased that today President Biden is following through on this pledge and that he is also encouraging governors to take similar steps to ensure that the tens of millions of Americans with state-level convictions for past marijuana crimes can finally move forward with their lives.”
The House of Representatives passed a bill to federally decriminalize marijuana in April. Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana use, with Rhode Island being the most recent.