On Thursday (Oct. 6), President Joe Biden announced that he will take executive action to pardon thousands of people convicted of marijuana possession under federal law.
"Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit," the president said in a statement. "Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates."
According to a White House official, more than 6,500 people with prior convictions for marijuana possession will be impacted by this pardon. Thousands of people with these prior convictions are denied employment, housing, and educational opportunities. “This pardon will help relieve those collateral consequences,” the official told reporters.
The pardon will not apply to people who weren't citizens of the United States and those that were in the country illegally at the time of their arrest.
Biden also encouraged governors to take this same action with state offenses and asked Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland to start reviewing how marijuana is classified under federal drug laws.
"We classify marijuana at the same level as heroin – and more serious than fentanyl. It makes no sense. I’m asking @SecBecerra and the Attorney General to initiate the process of reviewing how marijuana is scheduled under federal law," Biden mentioned in a series of tweets on his Twitter account.
Nineteen states, including Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for anyone that is over the age of 21, and over 30 states provide medical marijuana. In November, Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota are voting whether to legalize marijuana.