President Joe Biden pardoned every person convicted of simple marijuana possession under federal law last week as policymakers belatedly recognize that people should not have their lives ruined over a drug that is now legal for recreational use in 19 states.
Having a criminal conviction imposes “needless barriers to employment, housing and educational opportunities,” Biden said in a statement last Thursday. “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.”
The White House estimates that about 6,500 people convicted under federal law will receive pardons, in addition to those convicted under D.C. law, which relies on federal statutes since the District of Columbia is not a state. No one is currently incarcerated in federal prison solely on simple possession charges, but the pardons could ease some of the challenges people with criminal records face. The pardons do not expunge one’s criminal record, but they do lift restrictions on voting rights and holding office, and could make it easier to get a job or a place to live.
The pardons represent a positive step toward acknowledging and rectifying the harm caused by