President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a sweeping directive that would alter the laws surrounding cannabis and its classification as a dangerous substance, as well as grant pardons to those who suffered from the War on Drugs.
In a statement, the president stated that he plans to pardon all prior federal offenses of simple possession and begin an administrative review alongside the Justice Department to certify those who may be eligible.
“There are thousands of people who were previously convicted of simple possession who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result,” Biden said in a tweet. “My pardon will remove this burden.”
First: I’m pardoning all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession. There are thousands of people who were previously convicted of simple possession who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result. My pardon will remove this burden.
— President Biden (@POTUS) October 6, 2022
President Biden also called for governors to review state-level convictions.
“Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason either,” he said.
The president emphasized that limitations on trafficking, marketing and under-age sales should remain.
The development comes as a surprise to the public, as the Biden administration has been mostly mum on the issue since taking office despite campaigning on a platform that vowed to end the War on Drugs.
Still, Biden has at times waxed poetic on the importance of timing when it comes to executive directives such as cancelling student loans or the legalization of cannabis.
The October announcement just happens to be merely weeks ahead of next month’s contentious mid-term elections.
“Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances,” Biden said on Thursday. “This is the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine – the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic.”
“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs.”