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Biden’s Bold Move to Pardon All Federal Marijuana Offenses and What it Means for the Country

HomeU.S.Biden's Bold Move to Pardon All Federal Marijuana Offenses and What it...

In an unprecedented move, President Joe Biden announced on Friday that he will issue a full pardon to any U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who has been convicted under federal law for the simple possession of marijuana. This sweeping action will provide relief to thousands of Americans who have faced barriers to jobs, housing, and education due to decades-old federal laws criminalizing cannabis.

While possession of marijuana remains illegal under federal statutes, this progressive step mirrors the trend at the state level, where recreational use is now permitted in 19 states. Polls consistently show that the majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana, so Biden’s pardon signals a shift in attitudes around drug policy. However, selling marijuana remains federally illegal, so the pardon does not apply to anyone convicted of trafficking offenses.

Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit,” said Biden in a statement. “This is an important first step in reforming our outdated marijuana laws, but it’s not enough. Congress should decriminalize marijuana completely, expunge past convictions, and invest in the communities most impacted by the failed war on drugs.”

The War on Drugs Disproportionately Targeted Communities of Color

This blanket amnesty acknowledges how communities of color have borne the brunt of harsh cannabis laws. Despite similar usage rates across racial groups, Black Americans are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession compared to their white counterparts. These disparities motivated the Congressional Black Caucus to applaud Biden’s pardon, stating: “It is our hope that clemency be granted to more Black Americans who have been criminalized by the decades-old policies of the War on Drugs era.

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Cannabis convictions have resulted in a modern-day scarlet letter, limiting employment and education prospects long after sentences were served. The burden falls heaviest on marginalized groups targeted by racially-biased policing practices. Biden’s pardon finally offers a chance at a fresh start.

How Americans Can Apply for a Federal Marijuana Pardon

While blanket in nature, the pardon does not automatically clear federal cannabis convictions from individual records. Those seeking proof of their pardon can submit an application through the Justice Department, which will issue certificates on a rolling basis. A few key details:

  • The process is free and does not require hiring a lawyer.
  • Only federal simple possession charges are eligible, not state or local offenses.
  • Convictions for selling marijuana and other related crimes like DUI are excluded.
  • The pardon can improve employment chances, make applicants eligible for banking and licensing services, and remove barriers to obtaining federal housing assistance.

For decades, American drug policies failed to match public attitudes. This pardon marks a shift toward saner, more equitable cannabis laws. However, the move remains largely symbolic without congressional action to fully decriminalize marijuana possession and facilitate expungements. Still, it offers hope and a second chance to thousands hamstrung by a flawed criminal justice system. Biden’s pardon provides a measure of justice to communities ravaged by the War on Drugs.

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How States Have Led the Way in Marijuana Reform

While the president can only pardon violations of federal law, states have pioneered progressive cannabis policies over the past decade. Since 2012, 19 states have legalized recreational marijuana, while 37 allow medicinal use. This state-level momentum helped drive Biden’s historic step.

Despite federal prohibition, legal cannabis now comprises a $30 billion industry employing nearly half a million American workers. Early movers like Colorado and Washington reaped the tax boon from legal weed sales, funding key programs like education and drug prevention efforts.

Yet outdated federal bans have hampered the industry’s growth. Currently, marijuana businesses lack access to banking services and often operate solely in cash. They also contend with sky-high effective tax rates upwards of 70% since they cannot claim standard business deductions. Biden’s pardon constitutes an important step, but full federal legalization would turbocharge economic benefits.

Most Americans Favor Making Marijuana Legal

Biden’s pardons fulfill a campaign pledge to decriminalize marijuana made popular among Democratic primary voters. Polls consistently show legalization exceeding 60% support nationwide. Notably, even a majority of Republican voters now favor legal weed.

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But Biden tread carefully by excluding trafficking crimes from the pardon. His administration dismissed calls to remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances, given concerns about impaired driving and potential health risks associated with cannabis use.

Despite the limited scope, criminal justice reform advocates hail Biden’s pardon as progress. Moving forward, marijuana businesses and advocacy groups will likely continue lobbying Congress to enact more sweeping reforms.

Key Takeaways

  • Biden’s federal pardon offers relief for thousands convicted of simple marijuana possession.
  • But it does not automatically clear records – individuals must apply for a certificate.
  • The move acknowledges racial bias in drug enforcement and the punitive impact of cannabis laws.
  • Most Americans support making marijuana legal, so the pardon fulfills Biden’s campaign promise.
  • However, selling and trafficking marijuana remains federally illegal and is excluded from the pardon.
  • The president’s action constitutes an important first step, but further congressional action is needed.

Biden’s bold pardon signals a policy shift toward decriminalization and a more just approach to drug offenses. Still, America’s cannabis laws continue to lag behind state reforms and public opinion. For lasting change, Congress must act.

Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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