President Joe Biden on Thursday granted a pardon to all people convicted of simple marijuana possession under federal law, in what amounts to the most extensive White House action taken to date on U.S. drug policy.
The president also urged governors to take similar action for state offenses of civil possession of marijuana. In addition, he called on the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to “expeditiously” review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law. Currently, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I narcotic, meaning it’s deemed to have no medical use and a high potential for abuse. Heroin and LSD are other Schedule I drugs, Politico reports.
“Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit,” Biden said in a statement. “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.”
The president added that regulations that limit the trafficking, marketing and sales to minors shouldn’t change but that states should follow the administration’s lead because the vast majority of people incarcerated for marijuana possession in the U.S. are convicted under state or local laws.