The president of the United States, Joe Biden, announced this Thursday that he pardons all minor federal convictions for possession of marijuana. The measure, loaded with symbolism, paves the way for the total decriminalization of the use of cannabis in the country, which is already legal in many States: 37 have approved its medical use; and among them, in 19 its recreational use among adults is also authorized.
Authorities estimate that these pardons will affect some 6,500 people convicted under federal law between 1992 and 2021, as well as thousands of others in the District of Columbia, which is home to Washington. No one is currently serving time in federal prison for these minor offenses, but many do have priors for such offenses, which can make getting a job or housing a barrier. Outside the pardon are crimes for marijuana production or possession with the intention of trafficking with it.
“As I often said during my presidential campaign [de 2020]No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said in a White House statement. “Sending people to prison for that has affected the lives of too many people, convicting them of behavior that many states no longer prohibit. Criminal records for possession of marijuana have also imposed unnecessary barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities.” The president also denounces in the text that this affects whites much less than the rest of the Americans.
Biden has asked the attorney general, Merrick Garland, to get on it. He asks the governors of the different states “to do the same with respect to state crimes”, because what is used for a federal prison is valid for the rest of the prisons, according to the president.
“Third, I request the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to initiate the administrative process to review the consideration of marijuana under federal law,” the statement continues. Currently, the substance is in the category of “the most dangerous”, along with heroin or LSD, and is even considered more serious than fentanyl (a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine) and methamphetamine, drugs that are causing a veritable overdose epidemic in the United States. In 2021 alone, 107,00 people died in the country, which was, according to health authorities, an increase of 15% over the previous year.
“Even as federal and state regulation of marijuana changes,” Biden’s statement continues, “important limitations on trafficking, marketing, and sale to minors must remain. Too many lives have been changed because of our failed approach to marijuana. It is time we correct these mistakes.”
Pro-legalization activists immediately celebrated the news. So did candidates for the upcoming legislative elections next November, such as the charismatic senator candidate for the State of Pennsylvania, John Fetterman, who has made the legalization of cannabis one of the unavoidable points of his program, and ran to tweet: “We did it, Joe.”
Biden’s gesture also admits a clear political reading. The White House advisers on the matter do not hide that this announcement could encourage sectors such as young people or the black population, the most affected by the police persecution of this type of crime, to vote on November 8 in elections in the that control of both chambers is at stake (all the seats in Congress and a third of those in the Senate are elected), and in which the polls assume that the Democrats will lose the majority they have in the House Short .