WASHINGTON (HPD) — President Joe Biden on Thursday pardoned thousands of people convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana under federal law, a significant step by his administration toward decriminalizing the drug and dealing with court practices that disproportionately impact non-white people.
Biden’s decision also covers thousands of people convicted of said crime in the District of Columbia. He also called on governors to issue similar pardons for those convicted of marijuana-related crimes under state law, which account for the majority of marijuana possession cases.
In a statement, the president said the move reflects his position that “no one should be in jail for simply possessing or using marijuana.”
“Too many lives have been upended due to our failed approach to marijuana,” he added. “It’s time to correct those mistakes.”
According to the White House, no one is currently in federal prison solely for “simple possession” of the drug, but the pardon could help thousands of people overcome obstacles to rent housing or find employment.
“There are thousands of people who have prior federal convictions for marijuana possession who may be denied employment, housing or educational opportunities as a result,” Biden said. “My action will help alleviate collateral consequences stemming from those failures.”
The waiver does not cover convictions for possession of other drugs or charges related to the production or possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
Biden also does not pardon non-citizens who were in the United States without legal status at the time of their arrest.
The Justice Department is working to create a process for those covered by Biden’s pardon to receive a pardon certificate, which they can show to potential employers and others when needed.
“The Department of Justice will diligently administer the President’s proclamation pardoning individuals who have committed simple possession of marijuana, restoring civil, political and other rights to those convicted of those crimes,” the department said in a statement. “In the coming days, the Pardon Attorney’s Office will begin implementing a process to provide affected individuals with pardon certificates.”