By / October 7, 2022

Joe Biden Announces Federal Amnesty for Cannabis Possession Offenses

U.S. President Joe Biden has announced that he will pardon people convicted at the federal level for simple possession of cannabis. He also announced that he would ask U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to begin the process of reviewing the classification of cannabis at the federal level.

To follow the development of the federal reclassification of cannabis, be sure to download our free cannabis news app.

Joe Biden Plans to Change Federal Classification of Cannabis

The official White House statement was released on October 6, noting that cannabis falls under Schedule I alongside deadly drugs like fentanyl under current federal law.

The White House will “expeditiously review” the plant’s current classification, with potential implications for cannabis’ classification in international treaties and among friendly countries.

No One Should Be Imprisoned for Cannabis Possession

“As I have said before, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden tweeted. “Today, I am taking three steps to end this failed approach.”

Joe Biden outlined three key points:

  1. Pardon all prior federal cannabis simple possession offenses.
  2. Ask governors to pardon state cannabis simple possession offenses.
  3. Ask Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick B. Garland to begin the process of reviewing how cannabis should be classified under federal law.

Federal Amnesty to Affect 6,500 People

The amnesty decision will affect approximately 6,500 people who were convicted of simple possession of cannabis between 1992 and 2021, and thousands more convicted in the District of Columbia.

However, most of those convicted of simple possession were convicted at the state level, hence Biden’s request to governors to expunge convictions for simple possession at the state level.

Various observers of American cannabis policy believe that Biden has done the most he can to ensure non-violent convictions for cannabis possession, as the federal government cannot intervene on this issue at the state level. He is also keeping one of his campaign promises on the eve of the midterm elections.

Joe Biden Does a 420-One-Eighty

Joe Biden is credited with writing the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, commonly known as the 1994 Crime Bill. This bill was a key component of the U.S. war on drugs that led to the incarceration of countless citizens for drug possession.

A quarter century later, Joe Biden has publicly denounced his own record: “It was a mistake,” he said of his Crime Bill during one of the presidential debates. “All 100 senators voted for it. It was a mistake. I’ve tried to change it since then, especially the cocaine part,” he added. “I argued that, in fact, we shouldn’t send anyone to prison for a purely drug-related offense; they should get treatment. […] It was a mistake to pass these drug laws.”

The official White House statement ends with the words, “Too many lives have been turned upside down because of our failed approach to cannabis. It’s time to fix those mistakes.”

(Featured image by The White House (CC BY 3.0 US) via Wikimedia Commons)

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