- BBC News World
United States President Joe Biden granted a pardon Thursday to thousands of people convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana under federal law.
“As I have said in the past, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana. Today I am taking action to end our failed approach“, Biden said on Twitter.
The president also asked the governors of the different states of the country to issue similar pardons for those convicted of state crimes related to the possession of marijuana.
The recreational marijuana it is already legal in 19 states and Washington DC. The medical use it is legal in 37 states and three US territories.
However, this drug remains illegal under US federal law, even in states where millions of adults can purchase and use it legally.
A White House official told reporters on condition of anonymity that the pardons will benefit some 6,500 people who were convicted of federal simple marijuana possession charges between 1992 and 2021 and thousands more who were convicted of possession in the District of Columbia, where Washington is located.
He added that “there are no people currently in federal prison solely for the simple possession of marijuana.”
Biden noted that non-white people are disproportionately affected by marijuana convictions.
“There are thousands of people who have prior federal marijuana possession convictions who may be denied employment, housing or educational opportunities as a result,” he said.
“My action will help alleviate the collateral consequences stemming from these convictions.”
The United States incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any other nation, but relatively few people are in prison for simple possession of marijuana.
“Over 99% of federal drug offenders are convicted of trafficking,” according to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The president also said that the US classifies marijuana at the same level as heroin and as a more serious substance than fentanyl.
“It makes no sense. I ask the Secretary of Health, Xavier Becerra, and the Attorney General [Merrick Garland] start the process of reviewing how marijuana is defined under federal law,” he said.
Biden’s decision fulfills a campaign promise and is likely to please members of his left-wing political base ahead of November’s midterm elections in which the president’s fellow Democrats will seek to defend control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
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