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Biden pardons thousands of marijuana offenses, urging governors to do the same

Biden pardons thousands of marijuana offenses, urging governors to do the same


He’s also asked for a federal review to reschedule the drug

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In an official presidential statement on Thursday, President Joe Biden pardoned all federal offenses of simple marijuana possession and said that his administration plans to review whether marijuana should still be classified as a Schedule I drug like heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. 

More than 6,500 people in the District of Columbia with prior convictions of simple marijuana possession will be affected, according to CNBC. Biden also said that his administration would request that all US governors pardon all similar statewide offenses. 

Additionally, Biden urged Attorney General Merrick Garland and Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra to launch a review into how marijuana is classified under federal law. 

“There are thousands of people who were previously convicted of simple possession who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result,” Biden said in a statement on Thursday. “My pardon will remove this burden.”

Biden pledged to move on marijuana reform along the 2020 presidential campaign trail, but Thursday’s move marks the first significant step for the administration to make good on that promise. It also comes only a few weeks ahead of the November general elections, where Democrats are fighting to maintain their congressional majorities.

“As I’ve said before, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said in a statement on Twitter Thursday. “Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives — for conduct that is legal in many states.”

Still, the Biden administration has not taken actions to decriminalize marijuana. In August, Democratic Senate hopeful John Fetterman for Pennsylvania asked Biden to decriminalize the drug ahead of his Labor Day visit to the state. 

In September 2021, the FBI released a study estimating that the number of arrests for violations of marijuana law decreased from 36 percent in 2020 compared to 2019.