President Joe Biden will pardon all prior federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana, he announced on Thursday.
The president is also calling on governors to pardon state marijuana offenses. He will also ask the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and the attorney general to review how the drug is scheduled under current federal law.
“We can’t do it alone. The president is calling on governors to take this action as well,” a senior administration official said. “This is important, as the vast majority of marijuana convictions are state convictions.”
The forthcoming pardons are set to clear the convictions of some 6,500 people who had federal charges of simple possession of marijuana from 1992 to 2021, officials said. Thousands more who were convicted in the District of Columbia will also be pardoned.
“Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities,” Biden said in a statement. “And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”
The announcement still stops short of decriminalizing marijuana, even as a growing majority of Americans say the drug should be legal. The president also intends to keep the current regulations relating to trafficking, marketing and underage sales in place.
Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, like heroin and LSD. The Justice Department said it will work with the Department of Health and Human Services to review how marijuana is classified under federal law.
“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” Biden said. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.”