This post was originally published on Afro

By Alexis Taylor

President Joe Biden announced that he is taking executive action to relieve the burden of simple marijuana convictions, currently affecting the everyday life of thousands of Americans.

“As I said when I ran for President, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” said Biden, in a statement. “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.” 

Senior administration officials said the move is expected to grant relief to roughly 6,500 people charged on a federal level for simple marijuana possession between 1992 and 2001. 

According to the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) report, “A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform,” released in 2020, “on average, a Black person is 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a White person, even though Black and white people use marijuana at similar rates.”

The ACLU found that “while marijuana arrests were down by 18 percent overall since 2010, law enforcement still made more than 6.1 million such arrests over the past eight years. In 2018, there were almost 700,000 marijuana arrests, which accounted for more than 43 percent of all drug arrests.” 

Using information disclosed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the ACLU report found that “in fact, in 2018, police made more marijuana arrests than for all violent crimes combined.”

Biden’s executive action is a three-pronged approach to address the failed war on drugs. 

“I’m announcing a pardon of all prior federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana.

There are thousands of people who were convicted for marijuana possession who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result.  My pardon will remove this burden on them,” said Biden. “Second: I’m calling on all governors to do the same for state marijuana possession offenses. Third: The federal government currently classifies marijuana as a ‘schedule one’ substance, the same as heroin and LSD – and more serious than fentanyl. It makes no sense. I’m asking the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to initiate the process to review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.” 

The president noted that “even as federal and local regulations of marijuana change, important limitations on trafficking, marketing, and under-age sales should stay in place.”

“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” he said. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.”

According to Biden Administration officials, “the president has directed the Attorney General to develop an administrative process to issue certificates of pardon to eligible individuals.”

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