Last week, the Biden administration made progressive strides when it announced that it would be pardoning people convicted of simple possession of marijuana under federal law. This is a huge victory for justice, and it's something that should be celebrated. Here's a breakdown of what this pardon means and why it's so important.
The blanket pardon means that people with simple possession convictions will have their records expunged. A criminal record makes it very difficult to get a job, rent an apartment, or take out a loan, among other things. It can also make it difficult to vote or get custody of your children. In short, a criminal record can severely limit your opportunities in life. However, the pardon only applies to people convicted under federal law, while the vast majority of marijuana convictions occur at the state and local level.
Marijuana is still treated as a federal Schedule 1 narcotic, which are defined as drugs with no accepted medical use. However, many states have been expanding their legal marijuana access over the past decade. Nearly every state has legalized medical marijuana, and its commonly used by patients with cancer, Crohn's disease, AIDS, and many other conditions. A growing handful of states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and decriminalization is expanding at the state and local levels.
Along with this pardon, Biden urged state officials to decriminalize marijuana, even going so far as to state that it makes no sense to classify marijuana as a Schedule 1 narcotic along with drugs like heroin.
For too long, people of color have been disproportionately targeted by the United State's war on drugs. This has led to countless people having their lives ruined for possessing something that should never have been illegal in the first place. We need to provide people with the resources they need to get their lives back on track after being convicted of a crime. This pardon is a small step towards repairing some of the damage that has been done.