US drug policy: Biden wants to relax marijuana rules – and pardons (certain) convicts

US President Joe Biden has announced a pardon for those convicted of simple marijuana possession at the federal level as part of an easing of drug policy.

US drug policy: Biden wants to relax marijuana rules – and pardons (certain) convicts

US President Joe Biden has announced a pardon for those convicted of simple marijuana possession at the federal level as part of an easing of drug policy. "No one should be in jail for using or possessing marijuana," Biden said Thursday. "Sending people to jail for possession of marijuana has turned too many lives upside down and landed people in jail for behavior that many states no longer prohibit." A criminal record for marijuana possession makes it difficult for many people to access a job, housing and educational opportunities, Biden said. In addition, African Americans and other minorities are disproportionately affected by such convictions compared to whites.

The President therefore instructed the Justice Department to allow pardons for those convicted solely of marijuana possession, not other drug-related offences. According to the White House, thousands of people could benefit from this. Government officials spoke of around 6,500 convicts. The President's order only affects federal convictions, not state-level proceedings, where there are many more convictions. Biden also called on state governors on Thursday to follow his example.

Most US states now allow the cultivation and consumption of marijuana in some form, for example for medical use, but in many cases also for recreational use. But that's against federal law, which still bans marijuana. Biden on Thursday directed the Justice and Health Departments to review the status of marijuana in federal law. Marijuana is currently classified by federal agencies in the same category as hard drugs such as heroin. Biden's announcement came about a month before the congressional elections in early November. During the 2020 presidential campaign, the Democrat had campaigned for an easing of drug policy.

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