President Joe Biden has pardoned Americans convicted of Simple Weed Possession to work towards decriminalizing cannabis use
There’s an estimate of around 6,500 people with federal convictions for simple weed possession who will benefit from the pardon. However, none of these people were in federal prison solely for possessing marijuana, as most of these convictions happen at the state level.
Simple marijuana possession refers to possessing the drug for personal use without intent to distribute it. It doesn’t relate to those who have been convicted of possessing the drug in state courts.
Additionally, Biden stated how he instructed Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Gland to start a review of how marijuana is classified under federal drug laws. Biden realized marijuana is a schedule one substance under federal drug sentencing guidelines. Part of Biden’s stated plans as a presidential candidate was to decriminalize cannabis use, so this decision is an unsurprising one.
Schedule one is the same level as heroin and LSD, and higher than fentanyl. Schedule one also means it has no recognized medical value or research allowed, despite it being used as an anti-depressant for many years. Biden believes this doesn’t make sense for cannabis, a shared sentiment with many US residents.
And, while these penalties affected the general US populace, they disproportionately affected Black and other people of color in the United States.
Marijuana has been legal for recreational use in at least a third of US states throughout the last decade. Therefore, Biden’s view on marijuana is that no one should be in jail just for possessing it or using it recreationally. But, there are thousands of people with previous federal convictions for possessing the substance. These individuals could be denied employment, housing, and even educational opportunities as a result.
Biden stated how the actions he is taking will help relieve the collateral consequences of these convictions as, in the US, if a state legalizes marijuana and instructs police to stop conducting arrests, the FBI can still arrest weed vendors or people for simple weed possession, as federal law overrules state law.
Still, the state can forbid substances not guaranteed at the federal level. Since the newest wave of legalization began, federal policy hasn’t worked towards convicting people in simple possession of marijuana, though there are some outlier cases.
The pardon will also benefit state-approved marijuana businesses, as these have difficulty getting commercial bank accounts due to federal laws against handling money for drug dealers. Definitely, something most banks won’t want to backfire on them.
This announcement has been a big step toward the decriminalization of marijuana.