Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
President Joe Biden did not legalize marijuana in the United States, but he did take a major step in the direction of fully normalizing the substance’s use and possibly eventual decriminalization.
Thursday, via a proclamation, Biden pardoned thousands of people who had previously been convicted of simple possession of marijuana.
“[No] one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said in a statement. “Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit. Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities.”
The president expressed a similar sentiment on Twitter.
Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit. That's before you address the clear racial disparities around prosecution and conviction.
Today, we start to right these wrongs.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 7, 2022
Context is important in understanding the president’s order. The most important factor is that the only people who received a pardon were those convicted of simple possession and nothing else.
There are currently no people serving time in a federal penitentiary who are in for just that crime. The people pardoned by Biden, some 6,500-plus Americans, have served their sentences.
Beyond issuing federal pardons, Biden also asked all governors to enact similar policies at the state level.
“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,” Biden said.
In terms of the law, the most important step Biden took Thursday was to instruct Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland to review how marijuana is scheduled at the federal level.
“Looking forward to working with Attorney General Garland to answer @POTUS’ call to action to review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law,” Becerra tweeted.
— Secretary Xavier Becerra (@SecBecerra) October 6, 2022
At present, marijuana is treated as a Schedule I controlled substance on the federal level, which is the most severe level and places marijuana on the same tier as ecstasy, heroin, LSD, and peyote.
Cocaine, fentanyl, and highly addictive painkillers like Vicodin and oxycodone are all listed as Schedule II controlled substances.
Biden was quick to add, though, that he favored maintaining the status quo in terms of regulating the selling of marijuana.
“[Even] as federal and state regulation of marijuana changes, important limitations on trafficking, marketing, and underage sales should stay in place,” Biden said.
Biden’s timing was convenient given that midterm elections draw ever nearer, and CNN confirms the announcement was made in an effort to curry favor with the pro-cannabis crowd, particularly in battleground states.
Conservative political commentator CJ Pearson echoed the sentiment that Biden’s reasoning was strictly political.
I agree with Joe Biden – no one should be in jail for no reason other than simple possession of marijuana.
But, let’s be real: he isn’t issuing these pardons out of the kindness of his heart.
He’s issuing them because he’s a President on the verge of political extinction.
— CJ Pearson (@thecjpearson) October 6, 2022