Biden pardons all federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana in first big steps toward decriminalization – Boston News, Weather, Sports

(CNN) — President Joe Biden takes its first major steps towards decriminalizing marijuana, Fulfillment of a campaign promise to erase previous federal possession convictions and begin the process of potentially relaxing the drug’s federal classification.

Biden on Thursday pardoned all previous federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana, a move that senior administration officials said would affect thousands of Americans charged with the crime.

The announcement comes a month before the crucial election in November that will determine control of Congress. Some candidates – notably Lt. gov. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania Democrats, who is running for his state’s US Senate, have placed the issue of marijuana legalization at the center of their campaigns. When Fetterman and Biden met last month, the candidate said he would raise the issue with the president. At the same time, Democrats have sought to dismiss accusations that they are criminals, an issue high on some voters’ agendas in certain swing districts.

As part of the announcement, Biden also encouraged governors to take similar steps to forgive simple marijuana possession charges, a move that would potentially affect many thousands more Americans.

And the president will task the Department of Health and Human Services and Attorney General Merrick Garland with “quickly” reviewing how marijuana is scheduled under federal laws, the first step in potentially relaxing a federal classification that currently places marijuana in the same category as heroin and heroin classifies LSD.

“Nobody should be in prison just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said in a video announcing his executive actions. “It’s legal in many states, and criminal convictions for marijuana possession have created unnecessary barriers to employment, housing and educational opportunities. And that’s before you address the racial differences in who suffers the consequences. While whites and blacks and browns use marijuana at similar rates, blacks and browns are arrested, prosecuted and convicted at disproportionately high rates.”

“Too many lives have been turned upside down because of our failed approach to marijuana. It is time we corrected these mistakes,” the President said.

The moves Biden announced on Thursday Stop before full decriminalization, which enjoys growing support from both political parties. But they are the first significant steps a US president has taken to eliminate criminal penalties for marijuana possession.

The president and a small circle of White House staffers had been bickering over the changes for weeks, complicated by both Biden’s own personal skepticism about decriminalization and a desire not to dictate changes to the Justice Department.

Biden’s own view of marijuana is a product of both his age and the years he spent working on bills as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. During the 2020 campaign, aides argued that he was awaiting new studies that would inform a change in his position — but even without such studies, Biden was eventually moved by arguments about the lack of fairness and justice, particularly around racial lines.

White House staffers were also watching the calendar for the midterm elections, hoping the changes long-sought by criminal justice advocates will help spark enthusiasm among black voters, younger voters and a broader spectrum of core Democratic voters.

Senior administration officials declined to say how quickly the review, which would lead to further steps towards decriminalization, could be completed.

“The trial will take time as it must be based on a careful review of all available evidence, including available scientific and medical information,” a senior official said.

In his statement, Biden wrote that certain rules regarding marijuana would remain in place even if the drug were phased out.

“Even as state and local marijuana regulations change, important restrictions on trafficking, marketing and sale to minors should remain in place,” he said.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, although individual states have turned to legal recreational and medicinal uses. Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, marijuana is listed on Schedule 1, meaning it has “no currently accepted medicinal uses and a high potential for abuse.”

This has resulted in some users being prosecuted, even in places where marijuana use is legal.

Biden’s pardon will be issued through an administrative process overseen by the Justice Department, a senior administration official said. Those eligible for pardon would receive a certificate showing they had been officially forgiven for their crime.

Officials said there is currently no American serving a prison sentence on just a simple federal marijuana possession charge. But they said the number of defendants in this crime is over 6,500.

As a candidate, Biden stopped supporting the legalization of recreational marijuana. But he took a stance on decriminalization.

“No one should be in jail for marijuana. As President, I will decriminalize cannabis use and automatically quash criminal records,” he said during the presidential campaign.

Relaxing federal regulations on marijuana has gained momentum in recent years as the drug is legalized in a growing number of states. In late 2020, the House of Representatives passed a measure that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, though the Republican-controlled Senate failed to take it up.

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Nate Jones

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