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Joe Biden pardons federal cannabis offences, a decision impacting over 6,000 people in the U.S.

Oct 7, 2022 | Media Partners, The GrowthOp

This post is presented by our media partner The Growth Op
View the original article here.

;My intent is to pardon only the offence of simple possession of marijuana in violation of federal law … and not any other offences related to marijuana or other controlled substances’

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Nearly two years into his first term, and just weeks ahead of the November midterm elections, U.S. President Joe Biden has finally taken steps toward fulfilling his campaign promises of overhauling U.S. cannabis policy.

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In a Presidential proclamation, Biden declared “a full, complete, and unconditional pardon to all current United States citizens and lawful permanent residents who committed the offence of simple possession of marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.”

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“My intent by this proclamation is to pardon only the offence of simple possession of marijuana in violation of federal law … and not any other offences related to marijuana or other controlled substances,” he added.

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The news arrives after months of pressure from politicians and advocates to begin the process of reviewing the scheduling of cannabis. In July, a group of U.S. senators sent a letter to President Biden, urging his administration to begin the process of marijuana reform.

“The administration’s failure to co-ordinate a timely review of its cannabis policy is harming thousands of Americans, slowing research and depriving Americans of their ability to use marijuana for medical or other purposes,” the letter stated.

The action arrives at a moment when Americans are overwhelmingly in support of legalizing cannabis. Last year, a Gallup poll report found that more than two in three Americans, or 68 per cent, support legalizing marijuana, maintaining a record-high level set in 2020.

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Earlier this week, however, a crime report issued by the FBI highlighted how cannabis continues to be a target of U.S. law enforcement agencies. The report found that nearly half of the reported 885,509 crimes in 2021 that included the seizure of a controlled substance involved cannabis and hash. 

In a statement to Reuters, a senior administration official said more than 6,500 people with prior federal convictions could be affected by the pardons.

On Twitter, VP Kamala Harris called Biden’s announcement “a step forward in correcting the historical injustices of failed drug policies.”

Chuck Schumer, the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate and a signatory on the letter sent to Biden in July, said President Biden’s action was “a huge step forward to correct decades of over-criminalization.” Schumer first introduced legislation to federally decriminalize cannabis in 2018.

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U.S. Senator Cory Booker, who helped draft the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act introduced by Schumer in July, tweeted thatThese measures were long needed, and now Congress must act to end the War on Drugs.”

And while last year’s Gallup poll found that 50 per cent of Republicans support cannabis legalization, not everyone reacted positively to the news. U.S. Senator Tom Cotton called Biden’s action “a desperate attempt to distract from failed leadership.”

“In the midst of a crime wave and on the brink of a recession, Joe Biden is giving blanket pardons to drug offenders — many of whom pled down from more serious charges,” he added.

Kevin Sabet, CEO of prohibitionist organization SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), which has been linked to interfering with cannabis reform efforts in other countries, noted that “President Biden continues to oppose the legalization of marijuana, and we are grateful to the Administration for this.”

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“No one deserves to be in jail for a joint. But we should also not be selling highly potent THC products, nor should we promote and encourage use among young people,” added Sabet.

Republican Nancy Mace, a representative for South Carolina’s 1st congressional district, was more supportive. “Gonna give credit where credit is due,” Mace tweeted. “Great first step, let’s keep going,” she added.

In a statement, Erik Altieri, the executive director of The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said “many of the efforts taken and proposed by the President today are long overdue.”

“For nearly two years, NORML has called upon the Administration to fulfil the President’s campaign promise to provide relief to those stigmatized with a low-level cannabis conviction. We are pleased that today President Biden is following through on this pledge and that he is also encouraging governors to take similar steps to ensure that the tens of millions of Americans with state-level convictions for past marijuana crimes can finally move forward with their lives,” he added.

Altieri urged that, moving forward, the Administration “work collaboratively with Congressional leadership to repeal America’s failed marijuana criminalization laws.”

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