Lit: President Biden Issues Pardons for Federal Marijuana Possession

The president’s thinking on marijuana has evolved.

Jill Toyoshiba/Kansas City Star/Zuma

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On Thursday, President Joe Biden said that he would pardon all prior federal marijuana possession offenses.

President Biden announced the change—aimed at remedying the socioeconomic disadvantages that people, particularly Black and brown people, face for convictions of marijuana possession—to “relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions.”

Since many marijuana possession charges are filed at the state level, Biden also announced that he would urge governors to issue similar pardons.

He said that he would ask the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to review marijuana’s Schedule I drug classification, too.

The announcement represents a significant evolution in Biden’s thinking on weed. As my colleague Jackie Flynn Mogensen has reported, Biden once held a hardline stance against marijuana, categorizing it in 1989 “with harder, more addictive drugs like heroin or cocaine.” Even after Biden took office, the White House fired five staffers for using marijuana.

But today, the president asserted that the drug ought not be classified at the same level as heroin.

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

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