U.S. President Joseph Biden will pardon all those federally convicted of marijuana possession through an executive order, the White House announced Thursday. Sending people to prison simply for possessing marijuana has affected too many lives and has meant that there are people incarcerated for conduct that is legal in many states, Biden said in a video to announce the decision.
Two senior U.S. administration officials explained during a call with reporters that the order will affect only those convicted at the federal level, of which there are currently no one in prison simply for possession, although Biden will encourage governors to do the same at the state level.
We estimate that about 6,500 people convicted at the federal level for marijuana possession, and 1,000 people in the District of Columbia, will benefit from this decision, an official said during the call.
These convictions, in many cases, make it difficult for those affected to access, for example, housing or employment.
Most convictions for marijuana possession, however, occur at the state level, so the Democrat's administration will urge governors across the country to take the same measure.
The announcement is part of a series of executive actions announced by Biden to try to take steps in the decriminalization of marijuana, one of his electoral promises that, however, has been slowed down by the lack of agreements in Congress.
Biden has therefore decided to speed up the process and implement a series of measures to soften the burden that marijuana possession convictions place on a large part of society, especially the country's non-white population.
Despite the fact that whites and African Americans use marijuana at similar rates, African Americans have been disproportionately arrested, prosecuted and convicted for possession, the president said in his message.
In addition to the pardons, which the U.S. Department of Justice must issue to all eligible individuals, Biden asked Health Secretary Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland to review the federal classification of marijuana as a dangerous substance.
In the U.S. federal criminal justice system, marijuana ranks higher than fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is often prescribed by U.S. doctors and causes hundreds of deaths every day in the country.
Currently, recreational marijuana use is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia, where the U.S. capital, Washington, is located.
In addition, 37 of the 50 states allow the medical use of this drug.