Biden pardons thousands for 'simple possession' of marijuana - Albuquerque Journal

Biden pardons thousands for ‘simple possession’ of marijuana

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is pardoning thousands of Americans convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana under federal law, as his administration takes a dramatic step toward decriminalizing the drug and addressing charging practices that disproportionately impact people of color.

Biden’s move also covers thousands convicted of the crime in the District of Columbia. He is also calling on governors to issue similar pardons for those convicted of state marijuana offenses, which reflect the vast majority of marijuana possession cases.

Biden, in a statement, said the move reflects his position that “no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.”

“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” he added. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.”

According to the White House, no one is currently in federal prison solely for “simple possession” of the drug, but the pardon could help thousands overcome obstacles to renting a home or finding a job.

“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,” he said. “My action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions.”

The pardon does not cover convictions for possession of other drugs, or for charges relating to producing or possessing marijuana with an intent to distribute. Biden is also not pardoning non-citizens who were in the U.S. without legal status at the time of their arrest.

The announcement marks Biden’s reckoning with the impact of 1994 crime legislation, which he supported, that increased arrest and incarceration rates for drug crimes, particularly for Black and Latino people.

The Department of Justice is working to devise a process for those covered by Biden’s pardon to receive a certificate of pardon, which they can show to potential employers and others as needed.

“The Justice Department will expeditiously administer the President’s proclamation, which pardons individuals who engaged in simple possession of marijuana, restoring political, civil, and other rights to those convicted of that offense,” the department said in a statement. “In coming days, the Office of the Pardon Attorney will begin implementing a process to provide impacted individuals with certificates of pardon.”

Biden is also directing the secretary of Health and Human Services and the U.S. attorney general to review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law. Rescheduling the drug would reduce or potentially eliminate criminal penalties for possession. Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD, but ahead of fentanyl and methamphetamine. The White House did not set a timeline for the review.

But Biden said he believes that as the federal government and many states ease marijuana laws, they should maintain limitations on trafficking, marketing and underage sales.

The move by Biden puts the federal government on course with other big cities like New York that have been moving toward decriminalizing low-level marijuana arrests for years. But there’s a big divide in the nation as some police departments still believe the drug leads to more serious crime and ignoring low-level offenses emboldens criminals.

Advocacy groups praised Biden’s announcement, with Kassandra Frederique, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, saying the organization was “thrilled.”

“This is incredibly long overdue,” said Frederique. “There is no reason that people should be saddled with a criminal record — preventing them from obtaining employment, housing, and countless other opportunities — for something that is already legal in 19 states and D.C. and decriminalized in 31 states.”

It remains to be seen whether governors follow Biden’s lead. Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said extending the action to states could help millions of Americans.

“Since 1965, nearly 29 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana-related violations — for activities that the majority of voters no longer believe ought to be a crime,” he said.

Chris Goldstein, 46, was arrested after smoking half a joint during a marijuana legalization protest at Independence Hall in Philadelphia in 2013. He paid a $3,000 fine and spent two years on probation.

“As someone who voted for President Biden, I’ve been expecting this from the first day he came into office,” Goldstein said. “This was a campaign promise.”

As a writer and activist who has been public about his conviction, he’s not sure that his criminal record was an obstacle to him getting a job, but he knows that it shows up in his background checks. And he’s shied away from visiting other countries because convictions can complicate international travel.

“I’m thrilled, and everyone like me is going to be just as thrilled,” he said.

Rev. Al Sharpton, the president of the National Action Network, said Biden’s “righteous action today will give countless Americans their lives back.” But he added, “The United States will never justly legalize marijuana until it reckons with the outdated policies that equated thousands of young Black men with hardened drug pushers.”

The move also fulfills one of the top priorities of the Democratic nominee in one of their party’s most critical Senate races, as Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has repeatedly pressed Biden to take the step, including last month when they met in Pittsburgh.

Fetterman, in a statement, took credit for elevating the issue on Biden’s agenda and praised the decision, calling it “a massive step towards justice.”

“This action from President Biden is exactly what this work should be about: improving people’s lives. I commend the president for taking this significant, necessary, and just step to right a wrong and better the lives of millions of Americans,” he said.

AP writer Colleen Long contributed.

Home » ABQnews Seeker » Biden pardons thousands for ‘simple possession’ of marijuana


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
Santa Fe Opera wins international recognition as 'Festival of ...
ABQnews Seeker
The International Opera Awards named the ... The International Opera Awards named the artistic nucleus just north of Santa Fe 'Festival of the Year' at a ceremony in Madrid, Spain.
2
2008 offers a lesson for the age of cryptocurrency: ...
ABQnews Seeker
If an investment, like crypto, implies ... If an investment, like crypto, implies a get-rich-quick result, recognize that the risk is very high.
3
Fire ravaged NM forests this year. Now Christmas tree ...
ABQnews Seeker
Tree harvesters are grappling with the ... Tree harvesters are grappling with the aftermath of the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire.
4
US-Iran World Cup match provided sliver of hope
ABQnews Seeker
Sporting events such as the World ... Sporting events such as the World Cup allow the world to gather in peace and leave negative feelings behind.
5
Are you getting paid in crypto? Make sure to ...
ABQnews Seeker
A recent survey reports that, for ... A recent survey reports that, for people born between 1980 and 1996, 36% would accept pay in cryptocurrencies.
6
Police investigate homicide on Montaño near Rio Grande
ABQnews Seeker
One person was discovered shot to ... One person was discovered shot to death near a vehicle in the area of Montaño NW near the Rio Grande early Saturday morning, according ...
7
'It still feels otherworldly'
ABQnews Seeker
Yjastros first American flamenco group invited ... Yjastros first American flamenco group invited to perform at Spain's prestigious Festival de Jerez
8
Confusion lingers over NM paid sick leave law
ABQnews Seeker
Some advocacy groups say issues exist ... Some advocacy groups say issues exist with how the law is being implemented
9
Who wants a two-week appointment to state Legislature?
ABQnews Seeker
Bernalillio County Commission is seeking someone ... Bernalillio County Commission is seeking someone to represent West Side Albuquerque through Dec. 31.