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Biden takes action on marijuana, pardons thousands for possession

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Oct 07, 2022 - 05:20 AM

WASHINGTON (AA) – US President Joe Biden took a series of executive actions on Thursday, including pardoning thousands of people convicted for simple possession, amid repeated calls for the federal decriminalization of marijuana.

“Criminal records for marijuana possession have led to needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And that’s before you address the racial disparities around who suffers the consequences,” Biden said in a pre-recorded video address.

“While white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people are arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates,” he added. “Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs.”

Some 6,500 people stand to become eligible for the presidential pardon after being convicted under federal law while “thousands” more will be eligible after running afoul of Washington, D.C. law, according to a senior Biden administration official.

The Justice Department is being directed to stand up an administrative process to allow people to receive the appropriate documentation to prove their convictions have been annulled, the official added.

Biden is also calling on all governors to follow suit with regard to state offenses.

In addition, the president is ordering Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland to conduct an expedited review of marijuana’s federal scheduling. It is currently ranked as a Schedule I drug, which the federal government says have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

Other Schedule I drugs include heroin, ecstasy and LSD. It is considered more dangerous than methamphetamine, cocaine and fentanyl, which are all classified as Schedule II.

Biden pointed to the inherent contradictions in the US government’s classifications, saying “it makes no sense.”

The official declined to provide a timeline on when the review will conclude, but noted that it is “meant to proceed swiftly.”

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