Biden Pardons Thousands With Federal Convictions For Drug Crimes, Orders States To Do The Same
US President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting of the Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, US, on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. Biden unveiled new guidance from the Department of Education requiring universities to protect students who terminate their pregnancies from discrimination, in the latest effort by the White House to focus attention on abortion rights in November's midterm elections.
Oliver Contreras / Sipa / Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Joe Biden announced Thursday afternoon that he was pardoning thousands of people who had prior federal convictions for possessing marijuana, and he urged governors to do the same at the state level.

Biden said that people being held accountable for choosing to violate marijuana laws “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,” he said. “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.”

“I am announcing a pardon of all prior Federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana,” Biden said. “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.”

Next, Biden urged all governors to do the same, saying that if people should not be “in a local jail or state prison for that reason.”

Biden also said that he was directing his Health and Human Services secretary and the attorney general to initiate a review process looking at how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.

Biden issued the pardon for the thousands of convicts moments after he posted the statement announcing his decision.

“My intent by this proclamation is to pardon only the offense of simple possession of marijuana in violation of Federal law or in violation of D.C. Code 48–904.01(d)(1), and not any other offenses related to marijuana or other controlled substances,” the proclamation stated. “Pursuant to this proclamation, the Attorney General, acting through the Pardon Attorney, shall administer and effectuate the issuance of certificates of pardon to eligible applicants who have been charged or convicted for the offense of simple possession of marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.”

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