Today, President Joe Biden announced intent to pardon all prior Federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana. He’s urging States to do the same, and change the Schedule of drugs that marijuana falls under. Biden’s statement is below, and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson’s statement follows at the end.
As I often said during my campaign for President, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana. Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit. Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And while white and black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.
Today, I am announcing three steps that I am taking to end this failed approach.
First, I am announcing a pardon of all prior Federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana. I have directed the Attorney General to develop an administrative process for the issuance of certificates of pardon to eligible individuals. 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. My action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions. (Click to see the proclamation)
Second, 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 or state prison for that reason, either.
Third, I am asking the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to initiate the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law. Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances. This is the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine – the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic.
Finally, even as federal and state regulation of marijuana changes, important limitations on trafficking, marketing, and under-age sales should stay in place. Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs.
Governor Asa Hutchinson issued the following response to statements by the Biden administration on Marijuana Reform in the United States:
“The President, in his announced policy on marijuana, has waived the flag of surrender in the fight to save lives from drug abuse and has adopted all the talking points of the drug legalizers. The Department of Justice should not issue blanket pardons but each case should be looked at individually. As Governor I have issued hundreds of pardons to those who have been convicted of drug offenses. But in this time of rising crime, there should be a clear record of law-abiding conduct before pardons are issued.
“In terms of rescheduling marijuana, the president is ignoring the science that is behind the different categories of drugs. While his proposal sounds good, this is a step that has not been taken by the Obama Administration or the Trump Administration. Biden is simply playing election-year politics and sacrificing our national interest to win votes.”