On October 6, President Joe Biden pardoned all federal offenders convicted of simple marijuana possession charges in the U.S., affecting 6,500 offenders. He also encouraged governors nationwide to take the same actions at the state level in this announcement.
Currently, 19 states, Washington D.C. and two U.S. territories have legalized the drug for recreational use.
This announcement comes just before the upcoming November elections and the determination of the control of Congress. Politico Forecast predicts that the House will be led by Republicans but that the Senate leader is a toss-up. How the president’s announcement will affect voters is yet to be determined, but ABC News suggests that the pardon could be “a move to energize voters, particularly younger voters.”
This pardon is the first step toward Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign promise to decriminalize the substance. This announcment also comes after the proposal of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act by Senate Democrats. According to Kevin Sabet for Newsweek, this bill “was a dud” because of the lack of press it received. Sabet also believes, though, that the push to get marijuana on the ballot will not affect voters motivation to go to the polls in November.
According to NBC, Biden’s decision shows concern for those disproportionately affected by marijuana charges. He said in the video announcement, “Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana 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. 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.”
Finally, Biden also announced on Thursday that he is “asking the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to initiate the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.” Currently, marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug of the Controlled Substances Act; such drugs are “considered the most dangerous and addictive.”
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