By The Vanguard Staff
WASHINGTON, DC – In what many observers suggest is an attempt to fulfill a campaign promise, U.S. President Joe Biden Thursday announced a pardoned for all those with federal offenses of simple marijuana possession – former Obama Administration Official Van Jones said it could affect 6,500 people.
In effect, said CNN, Biden is “taking his first major steps toward decriminalizing marijuana, fulfilling a campaign pledge to erase prior federal possession convictions and beginning the process of potentially loosening federal classification of the drug.”
Some, added CNN, said it was a political move to gain a youth vote and help Democrats win Congress, citing “some candidates – in particular Pennsylvania Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who is running for his state’s US Senate seat – have made the issue of marijuana legalization central to their campaigns.”
“At the same time, Democrats have sought to rebuff allegations they are soft on crime, an issue that has risen to the top of some voters’ agendas in certain swing districts,” said the CNN report.
Biden also encouraged governors to take similar steps to pardon state simple marijuana possession charges, a move that would potentially affect many thousands more Americans.
He said the Department of Health and Human Services and Attorney General Merrick Garland will work to “expeditiously” review “how marijuana is scheduled under federal law, the first step toward potentially easing a federal classification that currently places marijuana in the same category as heroin and LSD.”
“No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said, adding, “It’s legal in many states, and criminal records for marijuana possession have led to needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And that’s before you address the racial disparities around who suffers the consequences. While white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people are arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”
Observers said Biden’s announcement falls short of full decriminalization of the herb, but, as CNN noted, “enjoyed growing support among both political parties.
News reports suggested Biden and aides have been “wrangling for weeks over the changes, complicated both by Biden’s own personal skepticism about decriminalization and not wanting to dictate changes to the Justice Department.”
In the end, said CNN, Biden was “eventually moved by arguments about the lack of fairness and justice, particularly along racial lines.”
In his statement, Biden admitted, “Even as federal and local regulations of marijuana change, important limitations on trafficking, marketing, and under-age sales should stay in place.”
Marijuana is illegal under federal law, even as individual states have moved toward legal use for recreational and medical purposes. Under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is listed on Schedule 1, meaning it has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
That has left some users open to prosecution, even in places where marijuana use is legal.
Those eligible for the pardons would receive a certificate showing they had been officially forgiven for their crime, although officials said there are currently no Americans serving prison time solely on federal simple marijuana possession charges.
As a candidate, Biden did not support legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes, but said, “No one should be in jail because of marijuana. As President, I will decriminalize cannabis use and automatically expunge prior convictions.”