President Biden Announces Federal Pardons for 'Simple Marijuana Possession'

US President Joe Biden pardoned “all prior federal and D.C. offenses of simple marijuana possession” on October 6.

“Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives – for conduct that is legal in many states. That’s before you address the clear racial disparities around prosecution and conviction. Today, we begin to right these wrongs,” Biden said.

Biden said he has also asked state governors to consider state-level pardons for marijuana possession convictions, and has instructed US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland to “review” how marijuana is scheduled, as it is currently in the same class as heroin and at a more serious level than fentanyl. Credit: White House via Storyful

Video Transcript

JOE BIDEN: As I said when I ran for president, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana. It's already legal in many states. And criminal records for marijuana possession have led to needless barriers to employment, to housing, and educational opportunities. And that's before you address the racial disparities around who suffers the consequences. While white and Black and Brown people use marijuana and similar rates, Black and Brown people are arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionately higher rates.

So today, I'm taking three steps to end this failed approach. First, I'm announcing a pardon for all prior federal offenses for the civil possession of marijuana. There are thousands of people who are convicted for marijuana possession, who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result of that conviction. My pardon will remove this burden on them.

Second, I'm calling on all governors to do the same for state marijuana possession offenses. Third, the federal government currently classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance, the same as heroin and LSD and more serious than fentanyl. It makes no sense. So I'm asking the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to initiate a process to review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.

Even as federal and local regulations of marijuana change, important limitations on trafficking, marketing, and underage 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.