President Joe Biden plans to ask governors to follow suit after announcing his plan to pardon all those convicted on federal marijuana possession charges. The announcement comes before elections that will decide whether Democrats keep control of Congress.
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President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he will pardon all individuals convicted on federal charges of simple marijuana possession, a move that the White House estimated would affect more than 6,500 people.
The pardons, which many Democratic activists have been calling for, are Biden’s most significant action to date in reforming America’s drug laws. They are also a clear effort to boost turnout in next month’s midterm election, which will decide whether the president’s party can hold onto control of Congress.
Asked about the timing of the announcement, which comes 32 days ahead of the election, an administration official who briefed reporters on the plan said that Biden was looking to fulfill a campaign promise after Congress failed to take any action.
“As I said when I ran for President, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said in a series of tweets laying out the plan.
“It’s legal in many states, and criminal records for marijuana possession have led to needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities,” he continued. “And that’s before you address the racial disparities around who suffers the consequences. While white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people are arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”
Biden called on all governors to follow his example and said that he would ask the attorney general and Department of Health and Human Services to review marijuana’s classification in federal law as a Schedule I drug, the same classification as heroin and LSD.
Although many Republicans oppose the move, the politics of marijuana and criminal justice reform are anything but black and white. It was President Donald Trump who enacted the First Step Act to reduce federal prison sentences, a law supported by a majority of GOP lawmakers.
The White House released the news while Biden was in upstate New York touting IBM’s investment in a plant that will make semiconductors.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.