The three-point plan includes the federal pardons, and calls for governors around the U.S. to take the President’s lead and expand forgiveness to the state level and a review by the secretary of the Health and Human Services department and attorney general into how marijuana is labeled under the Controlled Substances Act.
“As I often said during my campaign for President, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said. “Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit.”
After the President’s executive action, all previous federal marijuana charges will be pardoned, and the attorney general has been directed to develop an administrative procedure to issue certificates to eligible individuals. As such, those individuals would no longer be denied housing, employment and other opportunities as a result of their previous convictions.
Per one senior administrative official, the pardon is expected to impact more than 6,500 individuals with prior federal convictions as well as thousands more convicted in Washington, D.C. Biden added limitations on under-age sales and trafficking. Marketing will not change as a result of the executive action.
"We applaud President Biden for pardoning those who have been convicted for the simple possession of marijuana. Correcting unequal treatment—including marijuana reform—has been a priority issue for the NAACP for decades."
Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance under federal law. According to the Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School, the scheduling of controlled substances falls under 21 U.S. Code § 812. As such, Schedule I drugs are classified as those with high potential for abuse, do not have accepted medical use in the U.S. and lack acceptable safety measures for use under medical supervision.
Other Schedule I substances include heroin and LSD, and that classification is more restrictive than fentanyl and methamphetamine, Biden said.
"Biden’s promise to pardon federal marijuana possession charges is an empty gesture designed to pacify justice reform concerned citizens ahead of midterms"
While marijuana legalization has found footing in a growing number of states, and has polled well in many places, some have resisted the movement toward normalization. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, for example, chastised the president’s decision.
“The President, in his announced policy on marijuana, has waved the flag of surrender in the fight to save lives from drug abuse and has adopted all the talking points of the drug legalizers. The Department of Justice should not issue blanket pardons but each case should be looked at individually,” Hutchinson said. “As Governor I have issued hundreds of pardons to those who have been convicted of drug offenses. But in this time of rising crime, there should be a clear record of law-abiding conduct before pardons are issued.”
Additionally, Hutchinson criticized the science behind the decision, and pointed out neither of the last two presidents took such a drastic step.