President Joe Biden on Thursday pardoned thousands of people convicted of simple marijuana possession under federal law, The New York Times reports.
The pardons will clear everyone convicted of federal charges of simple possession since it became a crime in the 1970s.
It’s unclear how many people the move will affect. Administration officials noted that about 6,500 people were convicted of simple possession between 1992 and 2021. But the pardons will also affect those convicted under Washington D.C. drug laws, which number in the thousands.
There are not currently any people in federal prison for simple marijuana possession but officials say the move will help people get jobs, housing and benefits.
The pardons will not apply to those convicted of selling or distributing marijuana.
Biden urges states to follow:
Biden also urged governors to pardon those convicted of marijuana possession. The vast majority of those convicted of possession are in state prisons.
“Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives — for conduct that is legal in many states,” Biden said on Twitter. “That’s before you address the clear racial disparities around prosecution and conviction. Today, we begin to right these wrongs.”
Biden in a video added that while “white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people are arrested, prosecuted and convicted at disproportionately higher rates.”
Move to reschedule marijuana:
Biden stopped short of calling for the decriminalization of marijuana but said he had directed the attorney general to review how marijuana is currently categorized under federal law.
“The federal government currently classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance,” he said, “the same as heroin and LSD and more serious than fentanyl. It makes no sense.”