On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced pardons for federal marijuana offenses, and urged states to consider pardons, as well. Biden also announced a plan to review how marijuana is classified under federal law.

Biden’s pardons apply to all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession, clearing about 6,500 people convicted between 1992 and 2021 and thousands more who were convicted in the District of Columbia. The president said: “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 in a statement from the White House: “I am urging all governors to do the same with regard to state offenses. Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail of state prison for that reason, either.” The president will also move to review the classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug.

Biden also referred to the United States’ opioid crisis, noting that marijuana is scheduled “even higher than fentanyl and methamphetamine — the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic.” While Biden is advocating a move away from marijuana criminalization, he added that “important limitations on trafficking, marketing and underage sales should stay in place.”


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