President Joe Biden made history when he announced his broad “pardon of all previous Federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana” on October 6, 2022. The Democrat began to do well on the party’s platform and his promise to be a transitional leader, delivering. hope to those who feared that he could veto a legalization bill whenever Congress adopted it.
The president also announced that he would encourage the governor to facilitate similar actions at the state level. To date, nearly two dozen states have enacted legislation that expressly facilitates the process of having selected marijuana convictions expunged, vacated, otherwise set aside, or sealed from public view. These laws have led state and local officials across the country to throw out or seal the records of more than two million people with prior cannabis convictions.
Finally, the president announced that he would “ask the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to begin the administrative process to quickly review how marijuana is provided for in federal law.” This is a blow to the DEA’s unique, but often abused, authority to keep cannabis in Schedule 1 of the CSA.
Steadily moving towards cannabis reform
When candidate Joe Biden announced his candidacy for president, a collective sigh of disgust came from the cannabis community. Yes, Biden was a longtime supporter of civil rights, voting rights and women’s rights — including the right to choose abortion. Yes, Vice President Biden was the person who convinced President Obama to support gay rights including gay marriage. Yes, he was good at environment and diversity issues.
But Biden was also an architect of the War on Drugs, working with black churches, Republicans and Presidents Bush and Clinton to increase criminal penalties and go after patients with medical marijuana in the early years of the legalization process. . For many, it was unforgivable and untrustworthy, despite the Democratic platform supporting medical marijuana and state legalization of adult marijuana. It was always…Biden. So what happened?
Since taking office, much has changed, starting with his end of the ban against former pot smokers serving in the White House and federal law enforcement. His critics contested that he did not allow White House staffers to smoke cannabis, but that was because of a Reagan-era law that prohibited them from allowing it. Then marijuana arrests began to decline during his first two years in office. His administration never opposed state reform initiatives.
Welcome action, more to come?
Now, this month, he became the first US president to issue such a broad pardon for drug offenders and only the second president since 1937 to propose changing national marijuana laws. President Jimmy Carter in 1978 proposed that cannabis be decriminalized, but Congress blocked his plan. President Obama refused
In a statement, Biden said: “I have ordered the Attorney General to develop an administrative process for issuing pardons to eligible people. My action will help alleviate the collateral consequences arising from these convictions.”
In response to the president’s recently announced actions, NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said, “We are pleased that today President Biden is following through on this commitment. Since 1965, nearly 29 million Americans have been arrested for violations of marijuana — for activities that the majority of voters no longer believe should be a crime. Congress should be inspired by the Administration’s actions today to act quickly and send legislation to the President’s desk that would help close this dark chapter of our history.