With President Biden pardoning thousands of marijuana holders convicted at the federal level the first week of October, this takes a visible step toward legalizing aspects of an industry that currently suffers over-taxation, no business protections such as the ability to declare bankruptcy, and heavy and disparate compliance burdens. This amounts to the most extensive White House action taken to date in U.S. drug policy.
“This action is long overdue, but I am happy that it is finally happening,” Evan Nison, Vice Chair of NORML National and owner of NisonCo PR, said. “Cannabis should ultimately be completely de-scheduled and President Biden should work with Congress to enact full legalization to create a nationally regulated cannabis industry. This will allow for greater access to banking services, more opportunities for safe business practices, and greater financial oversight.”
All Marijuana Possession Charges Pardoned
According to The New York Times, the pardons will clear everyone convicted on federal charges of simple possession since it became a crime in the 1970s. Officials said full data was not available, but noted that about 6,500 people were convicted of simple possession between 1992 and 2021, not counting legal permanent residents. The pardons will also affect those who were convicted under District of Columbia drug laws, which officials estimate to be in the thousands.
The pardons will not apply to those convicted of selling or distributing marijuana illegally, and officials said there is no one currently serving time in federal prisons solely for marijuana possession. This move will also help remove obstacles for those trying to get a job, find housing, apply to college, or get federal benefits.
“The message behind these pardons is that it was wrong to criminalize people simply for using marijuana. If it was wrong for the federal government to criminalize those for marijuana possession, the next question is whether it is wrong to continue criminalizing people for marijuana possession. This is something all elected officials will have to consider, and hopefully they will arrive at the decision that it is time to take the next step and end cannabis prohibition entirely.
Most Americans recognize that marijuana is a less harmful substance than alcohol, and our nation is slowly but surely starting to treat it that way,” Mason Tvert, partner at VS Strategies, said.
More Action Needs to Be Taken
President Biden also said he is urging governors to pardon mariuana possession cases regarding state offenses. He is also asking the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to “expeditiously” review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law, which will be a huge landmark for getting closer to legalizing cannabis. Mr. Biden stopped short of calling for the complete decriminalization of marijuana, which is something that Congress would have to do and many Americans are fighting for.
“We welcome President Biden’s decision to provide relief to victims of the drug war, a decision which is long overdue,” Jesse Henry, CEO of Sunset Pipeline, said. “We hope that this is the first of many steps in addressing the inequities brought on by this unjust war. The scheduling review is something we are really looking forward to, as it would have massive implications for the industry.”